New U.S. legislation introduced last week is expanding potential targets for North Korea sanctions in China to include clothing manufacturers. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo
July 17 (UPI) -- The bipartisan legislation on North Korea introduced last week in Washington may be treading new territory with sanctions against at least one Chinese garment company suspected of hiring North Korean forced laborers.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., stated last Thursday the North Korean Enablers Accountability Act, would "ban any entity that does business with North Korea or its enablers...and to impose U.S. sanctions on all those participating on North Korean labor trafficking abuses."
China Dawn Garment, spelled Garmet, in Dalian, China, was named among the targets of the proposed secondary boycott, along with nine other Chinese firms that engage in the metals trade and mining: Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material and Rizhao Steel Holding in Shandong.
The legislation proposed by Gardner, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and others, follows the test of what is believed to be a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile on the Fourth of July.
"With its latest successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea has demonstrated intent and capability to hit the U.S. homeland -- and as President Trump said, we must never allow this to happen," Gardner said. "My bipartisan legislation gives those that currently conduct trade with North Korea a clear choice -- either do business with this heinous outlaw regime or do business with the world's leading economic and military power."
The proposed legislation is also the latest sign the United States is no longer waiting for China to increase pressure on firms within its borders that have been engaged in either hiring North Korean workers or trading with Pyongyang.
The Asahi Shimbun reported in May Chinese President Xi Jinping asked for a 100-day "grace period" on North Korea following his first summit with President Trump.
Continued North Korea provocations, however, is pushing Washington toward stepping up unilateral sanctions, a move Beijing has opposed.
The targeting of clothes or textile manufacturers may be outside current parameters of U.S. sanctions, but according to Kim Han-kwon, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in South Korea, the move may be a response to North Korea's changing approach to earning foreign currency for the regime as Chinese restrictions have banned exports like coal, News 1 reported.
China is currently the United States' largest goods trading partner, with total $578.6 billion goods being traded in 2016.