13:32 GMT +316 October 2019
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    US to Impose North Korea Sanctions Despite No Clear Strategy

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    The US House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to impose new punitive sanctions on North Korea. The vote come after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the US' South East Asian allies to further isolate Pyongyang.

    US lawmakers voted 419 to 1 for a bill that will negatively impact on the North Korean regime in a number of ways.

    It's designed to specifically target North Korea's shipping industry and use of slave labor.

    Under the new bill, trade will be hit by North Korean ships being barred from sailing in US waters or docking at US ports.

    The bill also targets Senegal, Angola and Qatar, all countries with North Korean immigrant workers, many of whom send their salary back home, helping the North Korea re-repatriate billions of dollars each year.

    Co-sponsor of the bill, Republican Ed Royce of California, told reporters that if passed, the bill will send a strong message to North Korea.

    "This is money that (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un uses to advance his nuclear and missile program, and also pay his generals, buying their loyalty to his brutal regime," Royce said.

    "That is what the high-level defectors that I meet with say. So let's squeeze his purse."

    Aggressive, and decidedly un-diplomatic, rhetoric has flared up between the US and North Korea repeatedly in the short months since Donald Trump was sworn in as US President in January 2017.

    Both President Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong-un are seen by many regional security analysts as dangerously unpredictable and fickle.

    However, what has been more surprising for some, is the notable coolness with which China has reacted to North Korea's recent actions.

    Beijing has long been North Korea's only benefactor.

    The geopolitical landscape in the Asia-Pacific is currently roiling with uncertainty.

    It seems Pyonyang has also been caught off guard by Chinese President Xi Jinping's cooperation with US President Trump.

    On Friday, May 5, North Korean state media publicly criticized Beijing, decrying what they described as Chinese "insincerity and betrayal."

    However, along the narrow Korean peninsula, Kim Jong-un is in danger of finding himself with no allies.

    For the US' part, it continues to be difficult to pin down exactly what the Trump administration's foreign policy goals for North Korea, or indeed, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

    President Trump has caused consternation domestically in April 2017, when he praised Kim Jong-un as "a smart cookie" who he would be "honored" to meet.

    Earlier that same month, Trump also warned North Korea that there was a significant risk of "a major, major conflict."

    The extreme floundering between praise and the threat of war has alienated some lawmakers in Trump's own party.

    Former republican US Presidential candidate Senator John McCain said watching President Trump square off against Kim Jong-un "could be a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion."

    Meanwhile, in another bizarre twist to US-North Korean relations, North Korea has accused US and South Korean intelligence agencies of attempting to assassinate Kim-Jong-un, China's Xinhua news agency reported May 5. The US has not given any official response to the allegations.

    The bill on US sanctions against North Korea will now go to the Senate.

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    Tags:
    North Korean nuclear program, US sanctions, conflict, nuclear program, economy, security, sanctions, Trump administration, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Asia-Pacific, Washington, United States, Pyongyang
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