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U.S. Senate unanimous in vote for new sanctions against North Korea

The Senate passed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act by a vote of 96-0.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 10, 2016 at 8:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- By unanimous vote, the United States Senate on Wednesday approved tough new economic sanctions against the North Korean government stemming from recent provocations by Pyongyang, including multiple purported nuclear tests.

The Senate voted 96-0 in favor of the mandatory sanctions, which seek to punish North Korea financially by penalizing individuals and entities that trade with the regime of Kim Jong Un.

"This legislation represents what Congress needs to do," Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., said. "U.S. leadership is absolutely critical in standing up to North Korea's activities."

The bill, titled the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, intends to put pressure on the international community to hold Pyongyang accountable for its recent shows of force -- some of which may have violated international resolutions.

"When we have 'partners' ... on the U.N. Security Council that are unwilling to take steps, it means even more so that this body... has got to be proactive," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Wednesday.

North Korea claimed it conducted its fourth nuclear test in January -- a reported detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The nation has also reportedly test-fired ballistic missiles and sent a satellite into low Earth orbit over the objections of many in the international community.

Despite what some in the West viewed as provocations, the U.N. Security Council has done nothing to punish Pyongyang for itsr actions.

A similar measure was passed by the House last month. It is not yet known whether the lower chamber will take up the Senate's bill for consideration, or whether the Obama administration will support whichever version might reach the president's desk.

"The president should list North Korea again as a state sponsor of terrorism," Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who returned to Washington from the campaign trail specifically to vote on the measure, said. "The president needs to pressure China to rein in North Korea and stop pretending China is a friend on this."

The new sanctions outlined in the Senate bill would force the president to freeze assets and place travel bans on anyone involved in supporting North Korea's nuclear, weapons, precious metals or raw materials industries, human rights abuses, and cyber threats.

The sanctions, if passed, would be mandatory -- meaning the U.S. government would be bound to level the punishment in strict accordance with the terms of the bill. Usually, congressional legislation of this type allow administration leaders to determine those specific details.

Earlier Wednesday, Japan moved to impose sanctions on North Korea including a ban on money transfers and denying entry to North Korean nationals.

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