Senate unanimously approves North Korea sanctions

Senate approves tougher sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program, human rights record and cyber activities.

Ben Ariel ,

North Korea flag
North Korea flag

The United States Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to toughen sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program, human rights record and cyber activities, Reuters reported.

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill last month, following a North Korean nuclear test in which it claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb.

Since then, North Korea has launched a long-range rocket in defiance of international warnings.

Senate Democrats said on Wednesday they expected President Barack Obama would sign the measure into law.

The White House has not threatened a veto, but a spokesman told reporters he did not have a response to the bill.

The Senate bill would sanction anyone who engages in, facilitates or contributes to North Korea's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms-related materials, luxury goods, human rights abuses, activities undermining cyber security and the provision of materials for such activities.

Penalties include the seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts.

Lawmakers said they wanted to make Washington's resolve clear not just to Pyongyang, but to the United Nations and other governments, especially China, North Korea's lone major ally and main business partner.

The Senate vote for the "North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act" was 96-0, according to Reuters.

Backing for the bill was so strong that two Republicans vying to be their party's 2016 presidential nominee, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both left the campaign trail to vote. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic contender, missed the vote, noted the news agency.