(LEAD) Royce: N.K. sanctions legislation to be as effective as 2005 banking restrictions

A package of sanctions on North Korea that has just passed through the U.S. Congress will be as effective as the banking restrictions that hit Pyongyang hard in 2005, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said Friday.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who originally authored the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016, made the remark in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, just hours before the House gave the legislation final approval in a 406-2 vote.

"I think it will have a similar impact," Royce said, referring to the 2005 blacklisting of a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau that not only froze North Korean money held in Banco Delta Asia (BDA), but also scared away other financial institutions from dealing with Pyongyang for fear they would also be blacklisted.

The so-called "BDA sanctions" are considered the most effective sanctions on the North ever.

"The information I received from those we talked to who were defectors from North Korea was that the situation was so dire at the time that then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il then couldn't pay his generals. Not a good position for a dictator to be in," Royce said.

The sanctions were later lifted in exchange for a denuclearization agreement that later fell apart.

The latest sanctions legislation will take effect as soon as President Barack Obama signs it.

It is the first time that a sanctions bill exclusively targeting North Korea has been passed by both the House and the Senate. Many other North Korean sanctions proposals have been introduced to Congress, but none of them passed both chambers.

The legislation calls for the mandatory blacklisting of those assisting Pyongyang with its nuclear and missile programs, human rights abuses, cyber attacks and other crimes. It is believed to be the strongest sanctions bill ever introduced in Congress against the communist nation.

Voting records have shown overwhelming bipartisan support for a tough response to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests, which showed the regime has made strides in its efforts to develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the U.S.

The bill first passed the House by 418-2, then the Senate by 96-0 and the House again by 408-2.

"If we deploy these sanctions as written, they are intended to be applied in a way that forces Kim Jong-un to make a choice between coming back to the table and ending his nuclear weapons program or to cut off the funding for that program and for his regime. Cut off the illicit funding," Royce said.

Royce again emphasized sanctions on the North.

"We've tried sanctions on Burma, we saw the result. We saw the result with respect to getting the sanctions of the government in Iran. Sanctions can work, but they have to be deployed. The way in which this legislation is written, it will effectively bring that pressure to bear on the Kim Jong-un regime," he said.

Royce also noted South Korea's decision to shut down the Kaesong industrial complex, a key source of hard currency for the North, in response to the North's provocations. Japan also took actions for additional sanctions on Pyongyang, the lawmaker said.

"So I think the U.S. has to stand with the region to send the message that this acceleration of the weapons program by North Korea, made possible by the hard currency that comes from the illicit activities that North Korea is involved in--that that has to be shut down," he said.

Source: Yonhap news