North Korea is pressing forward with their three-decade goal of building a stockpile of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and north Asia. With the safety of the U.S. and our allies at stake, we will not stand by and let the region fall into chaos. That is why we as a nation and as a global community are taking decisive action that has been absent for decades.
First, how did we get here?
In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton agreed to a "freeze" and "dismantlement" of the rogue regime's nuclear program. He secured an agreement for inspections, and, in exchange, the U.S. and the international community sent vast supplies of oil and some $4 billion to Pyongyang.
Then, in his 2002 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush declared North Korea part of the "axis of evil" in large part due to their non-compliance with previous agreements. At that time, in a post-Sept. 11 world, however, our military and diplomatic attention was focused on the Middle East, and, as a result, desperately needed pressure on the rogue regime was insufficient.
Most recently, former President Barack Obama's strategy of "strategic patience" for eight years gained us nothing and resulted in a more dangerous world.
In the nearly quarter-century since the U.S. has engaged with North Korea, not only have we lost ground as evidenced by their ballistic missile flights and nuclear testing, we now face a clear threat to our homeland and an immediate danger to our friends and allies neighboring North Korea.
For the first time in a long time, the leadership of the U.S. (the House, Senate, and executive branch) are unified in the goal of a denuclearized North Korea.
In his U.N. General Assembly address last week, President Trump made clear that the U.S. will take further action if Pyongyang continues on its path of nuclearization and hostile behavior. Following his address, the president issued an executive order that widens meaningful sanctions on North Korea, making strides to cut off their cash flow and further attempting to cut off their trade with the outside world.
The leadership of this administration's capable national security team, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has made great strides in ending "strategic patience" and has now put us on a path that has a greater chance of success than past U.S. strategy.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is also bringing to bear the full capacity of his agency, along with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, securing not one, but two 15-0 votes in the U.N. Security Council to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea. Indeed, for the first time, we have the U.S. and critical international partners working toward the same objectives.
In the House, we continue to do our part. As a member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, we are drafting bipartisan legislation to increase and expand sanctions against the North Korean government and those doing business with them.
Our goal is to prevent foreign financial institutions or entities involved in trade or other business with North Korea from accessing the U.S. financial system. We achieve this by using all tools available to us within the U.S. government, including enhanced sanctions.
In the House, we passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in July by a bipartisan vote of 419-3. It passed the Senate two days later with President Trump signing it into law in August. This law expands sanctions to deter North Korea's nuclear weapons program, targets those who employ North Korean slave labor, and cracks down on North Korean shipping and use of international ports.
Now, the U.S. is fully onboard with using all tools available to once and for all lead to denuclearization of the peninsula and end Kim Jong-un's harassment of the U.S. and our allies.
With nearly 24 years of loosely enforced and superficial policy on North Korea, we're moving forward, putting teeth to our economic, diplomatic, and military strategies and demanding that this rogue regime change its threatening behavior.
America is returning to her rightful place as an engaged world leader – protecting the families of America and our allies.
The time for action is now.
Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., represents Arkansas' second congressional district. He is majority whip on the House Committee on Financial Services. You can follow him on Twitter: @RepFrenchHill
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