WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill calling for strengthening financial sanctions on North Korea and holding officials of the totalitarian nation accountable for human rights abuses.
The legislation -- H.R. 1771 or the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act -- was unanimously approved in a plenary session of the House, Congressional officials said. The bill, introduced last year by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House foreign relations committee, won approval from the committee in May.
The bill needs to pass the Senate in order to become a law.
Royce said in May that the bill would deprive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of his ability to build nuclear weapons, and to repress and abuse the North Korean people. The congressman also said at the time that the bill is aimed at applying the same type of strong pressure the U.S. applied when it targeted a bank in Macau in 2005.
The legislation denies sanctioned North Koreans and their enablers access to all U.S. property and the U.S. financial system, and allows the U.S. government to sanction third-country persons and banks that facilitate North Korean proliferation, smuggling, money laundering and human rights abuses, according to the committee.
It also calls for sanctioning banks and foreign governments that facilitate the financial restrictions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2094, which was adopted to punish Pyongyang after the regime carried out its third nuclear test last year.
Other measures in the bill include blocking and seizing any assets connected with North Korea‘s proliferation, illicit activities and human rights violations, and requiring enhanced inspections for ships and aircraft arriving from ports and airports that fail to inspect North Korean cargo carefully.
Still, it is unclear how effective the bill will be in pressuring North Korea, a country that has lived for decades under an array of international sanctions imposed for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as well as its human rights violations.
It also remains to be seen whether the legislation will be able to win Senate approval in time as the mid-term election set for November is expected to overshadow other political issues in the coming months.
The bill will be automatically scrapped unless it is handled before the term of the current Congress expires on Jan. 3.