June 27, 2019

Van Hollen, Toomey Otto Warmbier BRINK Act Passes Senate as Part of NDAA Bill

Today, U.S. Senators Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), announced the passage of the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act within the Senate’s FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill was also co-sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Their legislation is designed to offer foreign banks and firms a stark choice: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system. It imposes mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

“The United States cannot stand by idly as North Korea continues to grow its nuclear program. This legislation ratchets up the pressure on Kim Jong Un to engage in meaningful negotiations that result in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I’m pleased that this bipartisan bill has passed as part of the Senate’s NDAA bill, and I am working closely with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to make sure it becomes law.”

“Essentially, these sanctions are modeled off the Iran sanctions, and they would present Chinese banks with a very simple choice: you can do business with the United States, or you can do business with North Korea. But you can’t do business with both. And for most, that’s not a close call. And that’s why we’re going down this road. This legislation will strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators, if and when negotiations should become meaningful. And I would urge our House colleagues to keep something like this,” said Senator Toomey.

“It’s important we send a clear signal that the U.S. is serious about increasing pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, and to stop its continuing human rights abuses like those that took the life of Otto Warmbier,” said Senator Brown. “I thank Chairman Crapo, and Senators Toomey, Van Hollen and Portman for their leadership on this issue.”

“I believe our sanctions will hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier as well as others they’ve illegally held captive. I’m glad these sanctions were included in the Senate-passed NDAA today as we continue to address the threat that North Korea poses. During this process I thought constantly of Otto Warmbier and his family. Otto has been at the front of my mind and we must never forget him,” said Senator Portman.

The legislation is modeled on the Iran secondary sanctions laws passed by Congress in 2010 and 2012 that helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. The key feature of the bill is that it imposes secondary sanctions on financial entities that do business with the North Korean regime.