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.
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.
“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless. It’s a dead end. It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue,” President Vladimir Putin said in September, just days after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test.