Obama signs bill to hit North Korea with new sanctions over recent 'provocative' acts

By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 18, 2016 at 7:53 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama on Thursday signed legislation to levy new sanctions against the North Korean government -- a move designed to "neutralize" potential threats and ratchet up international and economic pressure on Kim Jong-un's regime.

The bill calling for the sanctions received near-unanimous support in both chambers of Congress last week -- a vote of 408-2 in the House and 96-0 in the Senate.

Some were uncertain whether Obama would sign the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, but most expected him to.

The president affixed his signature to the legislation Thursday, which seeks to penalize any persons or parties who assist the North Korean regime with the country's nuclear program, criminal enterprises, certain trade activities or human rights abuses.

"Today, with the stroke of the president's pen, we have acted with one voice, sending a united message that warns North Korea of our strategic resolve and our determination to neutralize any threat that North Korea may present," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday.

Menendez was a sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It was introduced in the House by California Rep. Edward Royce.

The new sanctions were spurred by a series of "provocative" acts from North Korea in recent weeks -- which have included missile tests and a reported test of a nuclear bomb.

Those events have been denounced by the White House as "provocative acts."

"The administration is deeply concerned about North Korea's recent action and the serious setback that this [nuclear] test represents," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said last week. "We are philosophically and intellectually in the same place on this. This will not be a bill that we oppose."

The legislation also sought to earmark $10 million per year to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and increase access to media for North Korean citizens.

The only lawmakers in either chamber to oppose the bill were Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

Massie said he voted against the bill because he believes it expands the president's executive authority and legitimizes the United Nations, which he believes should be dissolved. Amash did so because he believes "unconstitutional civil asset forfeiture provisions" in the bill "violate due process rights of Americans."

However, nearly all other lawmakers were united on the matter -- even Menendez and Obama, who have largely disagreed on numerous other issues.

"It is my hope that international actors -- like the United Nations Security Council and China -- will take notice of this strong showing of U.S. leadership and leverage the momentum to implement similar measures," Menendez added. "Let's stand together with a single voice and one clear message: Any provocation will be met with consequences that will shake the Kim regime to its foundations."

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