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U.S. slaps sanctions on more entities, people

Jan 26,2018
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Wednesday levied new sanctions on nine additional entities and 16 individuals linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missiles program.

The sanctions were slapped on two Chinese trading companies, six vessels and North Korean representatives of companies and banks, mostly based in China and Russia.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that his department “continues to systematically target individuals and entities financing the Kim [Jong-un] regime and its weapons programs, including officials complicit in North Korean sanctions evasion schemes.”

He added, “The U.S. government is targeting illicit actors in China, Russia, and elsewhere who are working on behalf of North Korean financial networks, and calling for their expulsion from the territories where they reside.”

Washington is “sanctioning additional oil, shipping and trading companies that continue to provide a lifeline to North Korea to fuel this regime’s nuclear ambitions and destabilizing activities,” Mnuchin said.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also sanctioned the North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry, which handles crude oil shipments for the regime.

It added to its blacklist 10 representatives of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which is said to specialize in defense acquisitions and support Pyongyang’s military-related sales.

The company has offices in China near the border with North Korea, and also in Russia and Georgia.

According to the Treasury, the company’s Ji’an office handled large quantities of a wide variety of multi-purpose goods such as chemicals, drilling equipment, metals and machines; the Dandong office procured multi-purpose items for North Korean arms proliferators; and the Linjiang office often filled orders of goods worth several millions of dollars.

Pak Tong-sok, a blacklisted Ryonbong representative based in the breakaway Abkhazia region of Georgia and previously in Nakhodka, Russia, reportedly arranged to deploy North Korean laborers to Abkhazia in August 2017, likely in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2371.

Kim Pyong-chan, an official of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, was also listed.

The office also sanctioned China-based Beijing Chengxing Trading Co. and Dandong Jinxiang Trade Co., saying that between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 1, 2017, the two companies cumulatively exported over $68 million worth of goods to North Korea and imported more than $19 million worth from the country.

The sanctions block assets held by individuals or entities in the United States and prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

Earlier this week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Tuesday warned that North Korea could be a “handful of months” away from plausibly threatening the mainland United States with nuclear weapons, speaking at an American Enterprise Institute forum.

Pompeo said that the CIA believes the North Korean leader’s aim is “more than just regime preservation.” He added that U.S. President Donald Trump is “intent on delivering a solution through diplomatic means,” though Washington remains ready with a range of options.

His remarks came after North and South Korea agreed to march under a unified flag in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics following high-level talks earlier this month.

Noh Kyu-duk, spokesman of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a briefing in Seoul Thursday, “The additional unilateral U.S. Treasury Department sanctions reconfirmed the United States’ intention to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, and is a part of the international community’s efforts to lead North Korea to a path of denuclearization through strong sanctions and pressure.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]