Lawmakers Push Trump for More North Korea Sanctions With Scores of Firms Untouched
By Ian Talley
U.S. lawmakers are dialing up pressure on the Trump administration to expand sanctions aimed at North Korea to dozens of businesses described by U.S. and United Nations officials as components of North Korea's illicit financing networks.
A panel of experts assembled by the U.N. to examine North Korean sanctions evasion has identified nearly four dozen Chinese, Malaysian and North Korean companies they say have helped Pyongyang evade sanctions, finance its military and fund a nuclear weapons program, which haven't yet been added to the U.S. Treasury's sanctions list.
Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers and Treasury officials have named more than a dozen other firms and ships they say are also helping fund the Kim regime or abetting in sanctions evasion, but haven't added them to their sanctions list.
The lists include networks of banks, shipping companies, importers, arms-sellers and other firms operating largely in mainland China, but also out of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and West Africa.
The Trump administration has been careful about moving against Chinese firms, in part because it is trying to persuade Beijing to shut down Pyongyang's trade and finance networks. But the administration is under growing pressure from Congress to widen its net.
"We haven't taken the most aggressive steps possible, and this is as serious a threat as I can plausibly imagine," Sen. Pat Toomey, (R., Pa.) said at a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing on North Korea last week. Mr. Toomey, along with another lawmaker on the committee, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, (D., Md.), is advancing bipartisan legislation that would require mandatory sanctions against all foreign banks financing North Korea. Sen. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), meanwhile, is advancing legislation targeting the 10 largest Chinese importers of North Korean goods.
"It's past time for us to name and shame them," said Sen. Van Hollen told The Wall Street Journal. The administration's new sanction powers are a positive step forward, but those actions are only as useful as their enforcement, he said. "Without teeth, Chinese banks and other firms will continue to evade these sanctions and do business with North Korea."
The Trump administration says it is mounting a major pressure campaign against North Korea and its foreign facilitators in China and other nations. Late last month, President Donald Trump issued a new executive order directing Treasury to sanction any firm or bank doing business with North Korea, though the Treasury hasn't fully implemented that order.