WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce questioned why the Senate has sat on a House passed North Korea sanctions bill that could cut off the regime’s hard currency.
According to Royce, North Korea manages to make $1.7 billion a year in hard currency by offering to countries like the Gulf states, and other nations around the world, laborers who will work for food.
“That’s the last element of major hard currency that the regime gets. What does the regime use it for besides repression? It uses it for its ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] program and other weapons programs,” Royce told The Daily Caller in an interview.
Royce says the administration could use the authority from the sanctions to move on countries around the world that have a relationship with North Korea where they purchase involuntary servitude from the regime.
“Instead, they rely on this relationship with North Korea to use indenture servants, basically. These are people who work for nothing and [these countries] are willing to write the checks to go into the bank account in North Korea. You talk about an absurdity from the standpoint of human rights,” said Royce.
He added, “That arrangement — allowing that to go on — and we have in the Senate the tools to do something about it. I’ve been pushing it.”
The California Republican seemed shock that in the wake of the death Otto Warmbier, the Senate has not taken up his bill that passed the House last month. Warmbier, an American college student who visited North Korea 18 months ago, was sentenced to 15 years to hard labor after the regime convicted him of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. He was returned to the U.S. last week in a coma and died just a few days later.
Royce noted he was the author of another bill that passed the Senate that made it to the U.N. Security Council when Kim Jung Il, the father of North Korea’s current president Kim Jung Un, was the leader of the regime. The bill was a base line for the Security Council to act on North Korea.
“And that manage to cut off–to pinch North Korea in many different sectors of their economy. The one practice that we’ve learned a lot about since is the use of this indentured servitude for cash for the regime,” said Royce. “I have never seen the regime in North Korea the way it was under his father Kim Jung Il. At that point, he couldn’t pay his generals. That’s when we had his attention, and that’s when we’ll get the son’s attention, but the Senate needs to act.”