North Korea: US Congress passes tougher sanctions to punish rogue state

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed legislation to further punish North Korea for its nuclear program, human rights record and cyber crimes.

Politicians said they wanted to make Washington’s resolve clear, but also to the United Nations and other governments, especially China, North Korea’s lone major ally and main business partner.

The package includes sanctions targeting North Korea and “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with it.

The vote was 408-2.

Impatient at what they see as President Barack Obama’s failure to respond to recent provocations, many of his fellow Democrats as well as the Republicans who control Congress have been clamouring for a clampdown since Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in January.

Pressure for congressional action intensified even further after last weekend’s satellite launch by North Korea.

The measure has been sent to Mr Obama, who’s not expected to veto the bill, given its huge support in Congress.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters on Air Force One the administration was “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s recent actions and would not oppose the legislation.

“We’re philosophically and intellectually in the same place as the Congress on this,” Mr Schultz said.

The legislation would sanction anyone who engages in, facilitates or contributes to North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms-related materials, luxury goods, human rights abuses, activities undermining cyber security and the provision of materials for such activities.

Penalties include seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts.

Unusually, the measure makes most of the sanctions mandatory instead of giving the president the option to impose them. He can temporarily waive them by making the case that doing so would threaten national security.