Portman, Brown applaud naming North Korea sanctions after late Ohioan taken hostage by regime

    Left to right, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., are joined by Cindy and Fred Warmbier for a press conference in this provided photo.

    Ohio U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown celebrated Wednesday the inclusion of the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act in the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report.

    They were joined at the event by Fred and Cindy Warmbier, whose son Otto died after being imprisoned in North Korea for over a year and for whom the bill is named. Also joining them were U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

    The legislation, which now awaits President Trump’s signature, will offer foreign banks and firms a stark choice, Portman said in a release: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system. It does this, he said, by imposing mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea.

    Portman said the bipartisan sanctions legislation will help hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Cincinnati-native Warmbier as well as others they’ve illegally held captive.

    “I’m glad these sanctions were included in the NDAA conference report and we must continue to work together to confront the threat that North Korea poses,” he said. “Fred and Cindy Warmbier and their family have been through so much. I’m proud to be their friend and support their efforts to hold North Korea accountable and ensure that Otto is never forgotten.”

    Brown thanked his colleagues for their shared effort on this issue.

    “It’s important we send a clear signal that the U.S. is serious about maintaining economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, and to stop its continuing human rights abuses like those that took the life of Otto Warmbier,” Brown said in the release.

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.