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Testimony

A Legislative Proposal to Impede North Korea’s Access to Finance

Testimony for House Committee on Financial Services, Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee
13th September 2017

Download the full testimony here.

Introduction

Chairman Barr, Ranking Member Moore, and distinguished members of this subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to address you today on this important issue.

My testimony will begin with an update on the nature of North Korea sanctions, provide examples of North Korea’s illicit financial activities, and propose ideas to combat those activities.

Often, U.S. policy toward North Korea gets stuck in the provocation-response cycle whereby a North Korean provocation is met with strong rhetoric and/or a token increase in sanctions, which is repeated over and over. These scattershot responses have not, to date, added up to a serious and effective sanctions policy because they are driven by the momentary need to look tough, rather than by a clear strategy for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. In practice, the Kim regime can keep distracting the United States with its repeated provocation. We should break this cycle and ensure that the U.S. response to every North Korean provocation advances our ultimate goal.

Regrettably, many experts call for the acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state and insist that the U.S. can protect itself with a policy of deterrence. To evaluate the effectiveness of deterrence, one must be clear about such a policy’s goals. Some suggest the United States has successfully deterred Pyongyang over the last 25 years, since there has been no second Korean war. But the goal should be deterring North Korea from actions that threaten the U.S. or its allies. On that score, deterrence has had a mixed record at best. For example, Pyongyang killed over 40 South Korean sailors when it sunk the Cheonan, maintains a robust relationship with Iran, built a nuclear reactor in Syria that Israel destroyed in 2007, and launched a ballistic missile directly over Japan. Unfortunately, this is a short list of the failures of deterrence.

At some point, Washington will need to consider the Kim regime as the obstacle to achieving denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and sanctions can decrease the threat from the regime in a way that negotiations cannot.