The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, supported by 415 lawmakers, with two votes against. The act was designed to “impose the most far-reaching sanctions ever directed at North Korea,” according to Republican Andy Barr, who introduced the bill. This is considered to be the last step before Word War 3.
The sanctions are aimed at putting more economic pressure on North Korea for its missile and nuclear programs. The Otto Warmbier Act would ban any foreign entity that conducts business or cooperates with North Korea from doing business with US companies.
The bill is named after Otto Warmbier – the American student who came to North Korea for a short tourist visit in late 2015. He was arrested in January 2016 on charges of stealing a propaganda poster from the Pyongyang hotel at which he was staying.
He was later charged with “hostile acts” against the North and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In June North Korea released him with severe neurological trauma following months spent in a coma. The 22-year-old student was medically evacuated to the US in June, but passed away several days after he was transported back to the US.
“Renaming this legislation the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act won’t bring him back. But it will remind the world that there is nothing to be gained and everything to lose by working with such an evil regime,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after the bill was approved by the lawmakers.
The Warmbier family welcomed the decision and said that it is “extremely grateful” for naming it in honor of their deceased son.
The bill must now be passed by the Senate and signed by US President Donald Trump to become law.
Pyongyang has been already under the punitive sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for its missile and nuclear tests. The North justifies possessing nuclear weapons to secure peace in the region as the US and allies continue drills in the area, seen as provocation by the North Korean leadership.
Aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier on Tuesday, the chiefs of the South Korean military and the American troops stationed in South Korea reaffirmed combined combat readiness, sending a strong warning against North Korea’s potential provocations.
Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and U.S. Forces Korea chief Gen. Vincent Brooks met on the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan that was anchored off the port of Busan after joining a five-day maritime exercise with the South Korean Navy in the South Korean oceans.
“Amid an unprecedentedly grave security situation, the deployment of Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula and their joint exercise with South Korea is part of the increased deployment of U.S. strategic assets here. It must have been a strong warning to North Korea,” Jeong was quoted by the JCS as saying aboard the carrier.
“The latest joint exercise has been an opportunity to further improve the ability to carry out joint operations … (The allies) would continue to maintain their strong, joint posture to fight tonight through close cooperation,” the JCS also said.
The joint carrier boarding by Jeong and Brooks was designed to confirm the allies’ solid combined defense readiness amid escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to pat the backs of troops who participated in the latest exercise, according to the JCS.