The United States House of Representatives have passed a bill titled the ‘The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act’ that would level the “harshest sanctions ever” against North Korea.
The bill’s name comes from Otto Warmbier, a U.S. college student that died shortly after his custody in North Korea.
Warmbier, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, was arrested for stealing a political poster from a staff-only area of his Pyongyang hotel, which is a major crime in North Korea. He was charged with committing hostile acts against the state and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. In June, Warmbier was released with severe neurological damage of an unknown cause. He was taken to University of Cincinnati hospital where he died shortly after arrival.
The bill was put forward to “impose the most far-reaching sanctions ever directed at North Korea,” according to Andy Barr, a Republican Congressman who introduced the bill to the House floor.
Not only do the new round of sanctions target North Korean ventures, but it would also ban any company that does business with North Korea from doing business with U.S. companies.
"In short, foreign financial institutions that deal with anyone involved in these areas will face a clear choice: They can either do business that will ultimately benefit North Korea or they can do business with the United States," Barr said during the hearing. "They cannot do both. The goal is to incentivize foreign banks to sever ties to anyone involved in the North's economic activity and ultimately cut off Pyongyang's access to the resource it needs in pursuit of its nuclear ambitions."
China is the main target of the hefty sanctions, as China is the primary business patron of North Korea.
The sanctions will focus especially on North Korea’s main exports, oil and textiles.
The bill also allows U.S. President Donald Trump the ability to lift the sanctions based on certain contingents.
“Renaming this legislation the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act won’t bring him back. But it will remind the world that there is nothing to be gained and everything to lose by working with such an evil regime,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy after the bill was passed.
The bill will now have to be passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Trump to take effect.