North Korea sends protest to US Congress over sanctions

It's not unusual for Pyongyang to condemn Washington's moves to censure it, but direct protests to Congress are exceptionally rare.

The message, distributed by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), comes as tensions grow on the Korean Peninsula over the country's growing nuclear weapons program.

When asked if North Korea was also preparing to talk with the new government in South Korea, of liberal President Moon Jae-in, Choe said: "We'll see".

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation this month to tighten sanctions by targeting North Korea's shipping industry and companies that do business it.

The sanctions were condemned as a "heinous act against humanity" by the foreign affairs committee of the Supreme People's Assembly, state media said.

North Korea warned in the letter that if the US enacts more sanctions, it will strengthen its nuclear energy at "greater pace, beyond anyone's imagination".

North Korea revived the committee after 19 years at its key assembly meeting held on April 11, a move seen aimed at beefing up its diplomacy amid tough worldwide sanctions. Pyongyang sent letters to the United States in 1984 calling for the opening of three-way talks between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.

"As the U.S. House of Representatives enacts more and more of these reckless hostile laws, the DPRK's efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrents will gather greater pace, beyond anyone's imagination", the committee said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

But he said Friday's protest was also notable in that it was sent by the recently revived parliamentary foreign affairs committee, which was discontinued by Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in 1998.

Specifically, the bill bars ships owned by North Korea, or by countries that refuse to comply with United Nations resolutions against it, from operating in American waters or docking at USA ports. Additionally, it requires the Trump administration to decide within 90 days whether North Korea should be put back on the government's state sponsors of terror list. Goods produced by North Korean labor would be barred from entering the USA market under the bill. Such a designation would trigger more sanctions, including restriction on USA foreign assistance.

In the letter to 192 United Nations members and two observer states - dated Thursday - North Korea urged them to "reconsider any of their implementation activities until the legality of those "sanctions resolutions" are to be clarified".

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