Key GOP lawmaker: Go after North Korea with sanctions and short-wave radio

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R.-Calif., called Wednesday for tough new sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with North Korea. Royce also said the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang has been losing its totalitarian grip on a population increasingly getting information from short-wave radio and contraband South Korean movies.

Royce said in an interview with Yahoo News on Sirius XM POTUS Channel 124 that he had met with a top North Korean defector who played up the impact of communications from the outside world as a way to pressure the government of Kim Jong Un.

“He told me that the one thing really shaking the resolve of people across North Korea is the information that’s coming in on two short-wave [radio stations] run by defectors,” Royce said. “They’re telling people what’s really going on in North Korea and in the outside world.”

The defector, Royce recalled, said, “You should help amp that up and get that all across the country.”

Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — descendants of Cold War-era information warfare — currently broadcast 10 hours per day of short- and medium-wave radio into North Korea, according to a congressional aide. And Congress doubled their Korean-language programming for the year ending Oct. 1 to $6 million, where it will stay for the next fiscal year, the aide said.

There have also been private efforts to send cellphones, portable DVD players, and thumb drives with information and entertainment over the border. Tom Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor under former President Barack Obama, last month described some of the ways Washington tried to help.

In addition to news, North Koreans have been watching movies and soap operas from South Korea and China. It might not sound like much, but Kim’s regime clearly views this as a threat and has cracked down sharply on citizens who consume this contraband.

“They’re beginning to watch movies from South Korea … and seeing the difference,” Royce said. “They’re watching people in South Korea, the way they live in opulence, and they’re saying, ‘We want that democratic system that the south has.’”

The defector Royce met with “says those are the two pressure points that’s even making politburo members wonder what is the problem with Kim Jong Un,” the lawmaker told Yahoo News.

While many Americans harbor the view that Kim is unstable, Royce said the North Korea leader is not “as crazy as he is an opportunist.”

He also renewed his call for economic sanctions on Chinese entities, like big banks, that do business with North Korea — effectively making it possible for that country to develop its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.

America and its partners must “shut down his [Kim’s] cash,” Royce said.

“We’ve seen one thing that worked in the past,” Royce said. In 2005, the U.S. government caught North Korea counterfeiting U.S. dollars, and gave Chinese banks an ultimatum.

“They would either be shut out of the financial system, or they would comply and freeze all the North Korean cash,” Royce said. “When they froze the cash, we subsequently found out, it shut down their ICBM system and the dictator couldn’t pay his generals.”

Washington should send a similar message today, the chairman said: “We have to apply maximum pressure now.”

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