Today U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), members of the Senate Banking Committee, announced they would soon introduce new bipartisan North Korea sanctions legislation-the Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act of 2017. With Kim Jong Un now capable of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach Alaska, the senators said the United States needed to exert maximum pressure on North Korea and its enablers. The bill is designed to offer foreign banks a stark choice: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system.
"North Korea has crossed a critical and dangerous threshold, and the United States must take action. This legislation will fill an important gap in our current sanctions regime against North Korea by going after the foreign banks and firms that have provided illicit support to Kim Jong Un," said Senator Van Hollen. "It will send a clear and unequivocal message: the economic consequences will be severe for those who continue to do business with North Korea."
"We are close to a brink-the fact is North Korea has intercontinental missiles that can already reach parts of the United States. It is not a question of whether-it is a question of when-they would be able to deliver nuclear weapons with those missiles to virtually anywhere in the United States. This is a menace that we cannot tolerate," said Senator Toomey. "Our goal is to raise the cost of pursuing this nuclear capability to a point that the regime won't be able to sustain themselves on the path they are on."
The legislation is modeled on the Iran secondary sanctions laws passed by Congress in 2010 and 2012 that helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. The key feature of the bill is that it imposes secondary sanctions on financial entities that do business with the North Korean regime, and those who evade sanctions to assist the regime. The bill also aims to enforce existing international law by authorizing tough sanctions on countries that continue to allow North Korea to evade sanctions, or assist the regime in attempts to access international financial messaging services. The legislation will also include a congressional review process if the executive branch decides to ease mandatory sanctions found in the bill. This mechanism is drawn from the Russian sanctions amendment recently approved overwhelmingly by the Senate.