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Bill aims to toughen sanctions against North Korea

| Friday, April 26, 2013, 9:45 p.m.
A South Korean Marine takes position during the annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States in Pohang, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

WASHINGTON — House Republicans and Democrats are proposing to step up sanctions against North Korea by punishing companies, banks and governments that do prohibited business with the rogue nation.

The bill, crafted by leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and introduced on Friday, is modeled on sanctions in force against Iran.

Congressional staffers say the bill is intended to improve enforcement of existing sanctions and expand them.

The measure reflects growing concern over North Korea's nuclear weapon and missile development, and frustration over the failure of U.S. policy to stop it.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. Its prospects for becoming law are uncertain.

The draft bill does not name any particular entities but potentially could impact companies and banks in China, through which North Korea conducts most of its business.

The draft gives the president authority to sanction governments for illicit dealings with North Korea but allows him to waive the bill's provisions on a case-by-case basis on national security grounds.

The legislation could irk China at a time when the Obama administration seeks more cooperation in pressuring North Korea to end war threats and honor past commitments on denuclearization.

Beijing signed up for the toughest U.N. sanctions yet on North Korea in response to a nuclear test in February.

Royce, though, has called for tougher unilateral steps, as the United States did in 2005 against a Macau-based bank because it held about $25 million in North Korean funds. That measure had a significant impact,but it proved complicated to undo when nuclear negotiations with North Korea finally got back on track.

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