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  January 20, 2015

GOP to Obama: North Korea Sanctions Aren't Enough

Republicans on the House Foreign Relations Committee say they want to put North Korea back onto the state sponsors of terrorism list
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THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN PRODUCER: Last Tuesday, the House Foreign Relations Committee met to discuss policy towards North Korea, which recently the FBI says was responsible for the Sony hack. Earlier this month, President Obama renewed sanctions on North Korea and targeted more specifically its financial and trading infrastructure. But many Republicans in the House Foreign Relations Committee said that these measures don't go far enough.

ED ROYCE, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-CA): We need to step up and target those financial institutions in Asia and beyond that are supporting the brutal and dangerous North Korean regime. If that is what North Korea can do to a movie company, how vulnerable is our critical infrastructure? How vulnerable is our electric grid? What if electricity was cut off?

HEDGES: Others say that behind this push for sanctions is a strategy on the part of the United States to keep North Korea from turning to Russia as an economic partner.

PETER LEE, REPORTER FOR ASIA TIMES ONLINE: In my opinion, the reason that the United States is imposing financial sanctions on North Korea has a lot to do with North Korea's outreach to Russia. Traditionally, the United States has supported a format for engagement with North Korea called the six-party talks, which involves a united front of China, South Korea, Japan, the United States, and Russia in dealing with North Korea. Ever since Kim Jong-un came to power, he has been trying to do in end-around on that diplomatic arrangement and basically split the coalition and conduct direct talks with the various parties, especially Japan and South Korea, and now most notably Russia. He's been invited to attend a military parade in the Soviet--in Russia, excuse me, and has accepted. And it's considered significant because he will be visiting Russia as his first major overseas trip as leader of North Korea and not going to China.

HEDGES: Peter Lee is a reporter for Asia Times Online on Asian affairs and U.S. foreign policy. He says sanctions under the Obama administration have been more pronounced than under that of George W. Bush.

LEE: The difference with the Obama administration is that it is conducting the same sorts of financial sanctions, seeking to punish banks that provide Korea with access to the international financial markets.

HEDGES: Recently, experts have said that sanctions don't work, and last month, Obama even called the Cuba embargo outdated after announcing that the U.S. would reestablish ties with the island nation.

JOHN FEFFER, CODIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS, IPS: From my point of view, I would say, yes, over the last 50, 60 years, U.S. policy toward North Korea really hasn't produced any results that--at least the results that the U.S. government would like to see. North Korea hasn't changed its position on domestic policy. It hasn't stopped pursuing its nuclear weapons. It certainly hasn't tempered its criticisms of the United States. So it's certainly reasonable to say, hey, that policy wasn't working with North Korea; let's try something new. So, from that point of view, I wouldn't say it's hypocritical, but I would say that U.S. policy has not learned any lessons from its relationship, it's evolving relationship with Cuba and applied them to the situation of North Korea.

HEDGES: John Feffer is codirector of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He says these sanctions in fact encourage North Korea to engage in the activities the U.S. government has been denouncing.

FEFFER: Essentially, these sanctions have pushed North Korea, over the years, to engage in the kind of economic practice that are available to it. And that includes drug trafficking, possibly counterfeiting (although some of the evidence for that is questionable as well), certainly trafficking in cigarettes, ivory. And there are a number of very well proven cases of North Korea engaging in this kind of black market or grey market activity. But one of the reasons that it does so is because it, frankly, is locked out of the international economic system.

HEDGES: Republicans are also using the hack as impetus for solidifying American policy towards cyber security. On Tuesday, lawmakers tried to fuse the language of terrorism to the issue of cyber warfare.

TED POE, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-TX): We ought to strongly consider putting North Korea, these outlaws, on state sponsor of terror list. I don't know why we are so timid in doing that. It seems like the right thing to do, the logical thing to do. I hope the State Department eventually makes up their mind before more of these attacks occur against United States. I agree with Mr. Connolly when he said that the line is very thin between an attack upon the government of the United States and attack on private industry in the United States.

HEDGES: For The Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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