Bill named for Otto Warmbier would impose strong financial sanctions on North Korea supporters

Posted at 1:08 AM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 01:08:54-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A bill bearing Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier's name passed the House of Representatives Tuesday with only two dissenting votes, moving the country a step closer to imposing strong financial sanctions on the North Korean regime many believe was responsible for Warmbier's death.

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) tweeted after the vote that the bill known as the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act would impose "the harshest sanctions ever" on Kim Jong Un's government for its provocative missile tests and continued pursuit of nuclear weapons development. 

The fate of 22-year-old Warmbier, who died June 19 after returning home, comatose, from an extended period of imprisonment in the hermit kingdom, was never directly related to the weapons program but has become a locus of ongoing tensions between the United States and North Korea. 

Warmbier was arrested on a tourism visit to the country in January 2016, accused of stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years hard labor after a brief trial and disturbing recorded confession. The source of the neurological injury that rendered him comatose has still not been conclusively identified.

United States medical examiners have concluded there is no evidence to support either the North Korean state's explanation -- that he contracted botulism -- or the Warmbier family's claims that he was tortured.

President Donald Trump and other legislators have repeatedly cited Warmbier as an example of North Korea's abuses and used his death as evidence that it could take outside intervention to correct the Kim government's course.

The act named in Warmbier's honor would severely penalize non-North Korean individuals and financial institutions found to be providing money, transportation, education or supplies to the North Korean government. Such accomplices could have their assets frozen, be fined up to $1 million, imprisoned for up to 20 years or all three. Financing North Korea, according to the language on the bill, is equivalent to financing terrorism.

Once passed, the legislation can be suspended or entirely revoked only if the president believes North Korea "has ceased to pose a significant threat to national security" or "is committed to … the goal of permanently and verifiably limiting North Korea's WMD and ballistic missile programs."

The bill passed the House 415-2. The two representatives who voted against its passage were Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie and Michigan Republican Justin Amash.

You can read the entire bill below: 

H.R. 3898-2 (Otto Warmbier Act) by WCPO Web Team on Scribd