March 5, 2019 / 9:56 PM / 13 days ago

U.S. senators offer North Korea sanctions bill, backed by Warmbier parents

Bystanders holding North Korea and U.S. flags wait for the motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators sought to dial up pressure on North Korea on Tuesday by reintroducing a bill to impose sanctions on any bank that does business with its government, with the endorsement of the parents of Otto Warmbier, a U.S. college student who died after being imprisoned by Pyongyang.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen offered the “Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act” days after a summit between Republican President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was abruptly cut off after they failed to reach a deal for the reclusive communist nation to give up its nuclear weapons.

After the summit, Trump said he believed Kim’s claim not to have known how Otto Warmbier was treated, prompting his parents to issue a sharp statement strongly condemning Kim’s “evil regime” and blaming it for their son’s death.

In a statement, Fred and Cindy Warmbier thanked van Hollen and Toomey, and said they believed the legislation would provide useful tools to help change North Korea.

“We continue to support the bill and appreciate them honouring our son’s memory,” the Warmbiers said.

The measure, which would deny access to the U.S. banking system to any foreign bank that does business with North Korea, unanimously passed the Senate Banking Committee last year but did not advance further.

To become law, it would need to pass the full Senate and House of Representatives and be signed into law by Trump.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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