By Nicholas Salazar
Hours after the North Korean government threatened to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the communist country’s illegal activities, human rights violations, and nuclear capability.
“Test after test, broken promise after broken promise, successive administrations – both Democrats and Republicans – have clung to an unrealistic hope that one day North Korea will suddenly negotiate away its nuclear program,” said Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in his opening statement this morning. ”No, it is perfecting it.”
Witnesses who testified offered a variety of different solutions and insight as to how to deal with the new regime in North Korea, and how to address the country’s nuclear weapons ambitions, as well as its infamous human rights violations.
Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor at the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation, testified that North Korea would be “uniquely vulnerable” to financial sanctions by the international community, and added that up to forty percent of the regime’s finances come from illegal activity such as drug trafficking.
Lee advocated for the United States Treasury Department to have the authority to strengthen sanctions against North Korean banks that contribute to the regime’s finances, as well as expanding the department’s ability to designate what it deems to be prohibited activity. Lee included illicit activities, import of luxury goods, cash transactions greater than $10 thousand, lethal military equipment, and crimes against humanity.
However, U.S. Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) warned that “any more sanctions…may threaten Pyongyang’s survival,” a reference to the poor living conditions for the citizens of the country.
While much of the hearing was focused on sanctions, Lee admitted that these sanctions on a broader scale, and with the support of the United Nations, cannot be fully implemented effectively without cooperation from the Chinese government, which has consistently vetoed UN resolutions to impose further sanctions on North Korea.
Lee added that China will eventually view North Korea as a liability as its nuclear weapons program advances.
This afternoon, China and the United States agreed to additional sanctions against North Korea in response to the country’s nuclear test in February. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said that the proposal “takes UN sanctions imposed on North Korea to the next level.”
While the Chinese government has come under scrutiny for aiding the North Korean economy, the United States is no stranger to aid either. The U.S. has given financial assistance to North Korea in the past in hopes of the regime backing away from their nuclear weapons ambitions.
“They’ve been playing us…ever since we decided to give them money,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said. “This is a slap to the face to all the useful idiots of the world.”
While Lee advocated for a variety of approaches, he said that the overall solution to the growing tensions between both North and South Korea will have to be unification between the two countries, as well as a United States-led coalition to engage further sanctions and solutions.