The Cable

Congress to unveil new North Korea legislation

Not content to wait for the Obama administration or the United Nations to act, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is working on a new bill to punish North Korea for conducting yet another nuclear bomb test.

The Cable has obtained the latest draft of the "North Korea Nonproliferation and Accountability Act of 2013," a bill that was brought up in today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting but not approved. One member of the committee, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), held up the bill Wednesday over fears it could "authorize force" so a new committee meeting is being scheduled for Thursday so the bill can be considered again, perhaps with minor language changes meant to mollify Paul.

"There has been extensive military cooperation between the Governments of North Korea and Iran that dates back to the 1980s," the draft reads. "The latest provocative and defiant action by the Government of North Korea represents a direct threat to the United States and to our regional allies and partners."

The latest North Korean test is a violation United Nations Security Council Resolutions 825 (1993), 1540 (2004), 1695 (2006), 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), and 2087 (2013), the bill declares, and the United States and its partners should impose sanctions provided for under those resolutions.

"The United States Government should seek a new round of United Nations Security Council sanctions, including the public identification of all North Korean and foreign banks, business, and government agencies suspected of violating United Nations Security Council resolutions, and implementing necessary measures to ensure enforcement of such sanctions," the bill reads.

It also calls on all U.N. member states to increase their efforts to prevent the export of military and dual-use technologies to North Korea and step up efforts to prevent financial transactions that benefit the North Korean government.

The U.S. government should explore ways to increase military cooperation with Asian allies and push the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council to adopt the recommendation in the recent report of Marzuki Darusman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, that an inquiry mechanism should be established to investigate North Korea's "grave, widespread and systematic violations of human rights," the law states.

The law in its current form would also require Secretary of State John Kerry to report to Congress by May 15 on U.S. policy towards North Korea "based on a full and complete interagency review of current policy and possible alternatives, including North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and missile programs and human rights atrocities. The report shall include recommendations for such legislative or administrative action as the Secretary considers appropriate in light of the results of the review."

The committee also finalized new subcommittee leadership posts at the business meeting today.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) retains her chairmanship of the subcommittee on international operations and organizations, human rights, democracy, and global women's issues, but she will now have to contend with Paul as the new ranking Republican on that panel.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) takes over the subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs following Jim Webb's retirement, and his new Republican is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who gave up his leadership post on the subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, perhaps to bolster his non-Latin foreign policy bonafides ahead of a 2016 presidential run.

New SFRC member John McCain (R-AZ) replaces Rubio as ranking Republican on the Western Hemisphere panel, working now with subcommittee chairman Tom Udall (D-NM). Bob Casey (D-PA) remains chairman of the subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian affairs, with ranking Republican James Risch (R-ID).

Chris Coons (D-DE), the only Swahili-fluent member of Congress, will stay as African affairs subcommittee head and he will be paired with freshman senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Christopher Murphy (D-CT) takes over the European affairs subcommittee from Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Ron Johnson (R-WY) will be the ranking Republican for Europe. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John Barasso (R-WY) will lead the subcommittee on international development and foreign assistance.

The Cable

Russian foreign minister won’t return Kerry’s call

Secretary of State John Kerry called all the foreign ministers of countries that deal with North Korea following Monday's nuclear test and all but one of them picked up the phone -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Kerry made his first remarks about the new nuclear test, which the North Koreans warned the State Department about in advance.

"With respect to the DPRK, President Obama made it crystal clear last night and previously in all comments, as have other countries, that North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program are a threat now to the United States of America, because of what they are pursuing specifically, as well as to global security and peace," Kerry said.

"Following their latest provocation, which we have termed and believe is reckless and provocative, needlessly, I called Foreign Minister Kim of South Korea, I talked to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, I talked to Foreign Minister Yang of China, and we have placed a phone call to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and consulted with all of them with respect to the steps that we need to take," Kerry went on. "The international community now needs to come together with a swift and clear, strong, credible response, as pledged in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2087."

The now-defunct six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program included the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Russia. But Russia's leaders are the only members of that group with whom Kerry hasn't spoken this week.

At Wednesday's State Department press briefing, outgoing Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that Kerry was frantically trying to reach Lavrov. (The Cable has confirmed that Nuland will soon be replaced at the podium by White House Deputy Press Secretary Jen Psaki.)

"There's been nothing frantic about it. He reached out to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, made it clear again today that he's ready to talk whenever Foreign Minister Lavrov can find the time," Nuland said.

On Tuesday, Nuland said that Kerry had called Lavrov early in the morning and was hoping to connect with him by the end of that day. Lavrov has been traveling in Africa, she noted.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had similar difficulty reaching Lavrov quickly by phone. In early 2012, Lavrov was traveling in Australia and didn't return Clinton's call about a pending U.N. resolution on Syria.

One reporter asked Nuland Wednesday whether the State Department had communicated to the Russian Foreign Ministry its displeasure of Russia's announcement that it will continue to fulfill arms sales contracts to the Syrian regime.

"I think it's fair to say... that in every conversation with a senior Russian leader, from President Putin through Foreign Minister Lavrov and all the way down, the issue of Russia's continued resupply of Syria comes up," Nuland said.

"Maybe you could text him," one reporter joked.

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