The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions this week on 13 entities believed to do business with North Korea, including four Chinese companies and one Chinese citizen.
A report released this year prior to the new sanctions accused the citizen, identified as Sun Sidong, and his company of exporting $28.5 million worth of material to North Korea between 2013 and 2016. The Treasury Department confirmed this number in its announcement on Tuesday.
The new sanctions follow an announcement this week that the U.S. State Department would once again list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, after being removed from the list in 2008. The designation would trigger new limitations in North Korea’s international dealings.
In total, the Treasury sanctioned “one individual, 13 entities, and 20 vessels” this week, most tied to North Korea. Among the companies, however, were four Chinese groups: Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Ltd., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co., Ltd., Dandong Hongda Trade Co. Ltd., and Sun’s Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co., Ltd. The first three, the Treasury noted, cumulatively exported approximately $650 million worth of goods to North Korea and cumulatively imported more than $100 million worth of goods from North Korea.” Most of the products exchanged were types of ore.
Dongyuan, meanwhile, stands accused of “exporting over $28 million worth of goods to North Korea over several years, including motor vehicles, electrical machinery, radio navigational items, aluminum, iron, pipes, and items associated with nuclear reactors.”
“As North Korea continues to threaten international peace and security, we are steadfast in our determination to maximize economic pressure to isolate it from outside sources of trade and revenue while exposing its evasive tactics,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in the announcement.
Dandong is a China’s largest border city, situated across the Yalu River from North Korea. Much of the business conducted between China and North Korea occurs in Dandong. In June, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Bank of Dandong for ties to North Korea, cutting it off from America’s global economic network entirely.
The U.S. also demanded $4,083,935 as a civil money laundering penalty from Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co., Ltd., in August. Two months later, the Treasury froze the company’s assets. Zhicheng, according to CNBC, shares an email address with Dongyuan, Sun’s company. CNBC also found evidence that Sun owns a million-dollar residence in Long Island, which could potentially aid him in doing international trade.
Sun and Dandong Dongyuan featured prominently in an investigation published in June by C4ADS, a Washington, D.C., research group. C4ADS found that Sun apparently did establish an American company, named “Dongyuan Enterprise USA,” which could allow him “to conduct business with firms around the world with no obvious ties to a Chinese company focused on North Korea,” according to the Washington Post.
The U.S. State Department asserted on Wednesday that further sanctions on the rogue regime in Pyongyang should not “jeopardize” the relationship between Washington and Pyongyang. “The world has come together behind this issue recognizing how destabilizing the activities are on the part of Kim Jong-un’s regime,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We have a good relationship with China; that’s not going to change because we’ve made this designation [on North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism].”
“I think that North Korea—and I imagine the Chinese would be very upfront in saying this as well—has become a bit of a thorn in their side,” Nauert asserted.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the new sanctions on its companies with a blanket rejection of “unilateral” sanctions. “I would like to reiterate that we always firmly oppose the wrong act of imposing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ by any country in accordance with its own law,” spokesman Lu Kang said.
The Chinese state-run Global Times, which typically takes a more belligerent approach to the Foreign Ministry, stated in an opinion piece on Wednesday that America had “gone far beyond the UN Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on Pyongyang,” calling the new sanctions “presumptuousness.”
“Both North Korea and the U.S. are violating U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the Times claimed, complaining that Liaoning province, where Dandong is located, has “suffered economic losses” due to America’s insistence on curbing North Korea’s nuclear threat.
North Korea has responded to being relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism by calling the move “clearly an absurdity and a mockery of world peace and security.”