Gardner, Markey Send Letter Urging Robust Enforcement of Current Sanctions on North Korea

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senator Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, asking for a recommitment of the U.S. government efforts to enforce current U.S. and United Nations sanctions with regard to North Korea, and to deliver a North Korea strategy to Congress by March 31, 2019, as required by U.S. law.


Note: Full letter available here


The letter reads in full:


Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin:


We write to urge that you re-commit U.S. government efforts toward robust enforcement of current U.S. and United Nations sanctions with regard to North Korea, and to deliver to Congress in a timely manner a key report on North Korea strategy, as required by U.S. law.


On March 5, 2019, the United Nations Report of the Panel of Experts, established pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, stated: “The nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remain intact and the country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal.”  The report noted that North Korea continues to violate the arms embargo imposed on the regime“ [f]inancial sanctions remain some of the most poorly implemented and actively evaded measures of the sanctions regime.”  The report further described suspected cases of prohibited North Korean arms sales to Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, including potential sales of ballistic missiles and other equipment to Houthi rebels.


This status quo is unacceptable and is contrary to the Administration’s “maximum pressure and engagement” doctrine. As you know, relevant U.S. law, including the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (Public Law 114-122) and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (Public Law 115-409), mandates the imposition of U.S. sanctions for behaviors described in the UN Panel of Experts report, including human rights violations and malign activities in cyberspace.  


Unfortunately, it appears that the pace of U.S. sanctions designations with regard to North Korea has slowed considerably. According to research conducted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, since March 31, 2017, the Trump administration sanctioned 182 persons and entities for North Korea sanctions violations.  However, after February 23, 2018, the Treasury Department has issued only 26 new designations, despite ample evidence of illicit behavior from Pyongyang and its enablers. 


While we welcome continuing diplomacy to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea, the evidence presented by the UN Panel of Experts and the noticeably slowing pace of U.S. sanctions designations require a correction of course and more urgent attention to sanctions enforcement efforts in your respective agencies.



Section 210 (d) of the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act also requires that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury, submit an unclassified report (with a classified annex, if necessary) by March 31, 2019 that “describes actions taken by the United States to address the threats posed by, and the capabilities of, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” We seek your commitment to deliver this report to Congress on time, and with each of the necessary elements required by the letter of the law included.


Thank you for your urgent attention to this important matter. We stand ready to work with each of your agencies to ensure diplomatic efforts with North Korea are backed by the robust sanctions enforcement necessary to ensure those efforts can be successful.