U.S. Treasury Announces More Sanctions over North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists mentioned new testing by North Korea, and an enhanced commitment to nuclear weapons in China, Pakistan and India
DOE/AFP/File

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against nine entities, 16 individuals, and six ocean vessels related to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, and efforts to circumvent sanctions imposed by the United Nations against that program.

“Treasury continues to systematically target individuals and entities financing the Kim regime and its weapons programs, including officials complicit in North Korean sanctions evasion schemes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolutions, 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,” Mnuchin continued. “We are 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.”

Many of the sanctions fell upon representatives of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which handles North Korean military acquisitions and stands accused of supporting its chemical weapons program. Seven of these Ryonbong representatives are based in China and handle North Korean business with companies headquartered there, while three of them are based in Russia.

Five of the sanctioned individuals work for banned North Korean financial institutions. Four of them have affiliations with Chinese banks, while the fifth represented North Korean financial interests in Russia.

Two Chinese companies were sanctioned for importing or exporting banned goods from North Korea. The ships sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department were engaged in transporting banned goods such as coal. One of them was caught delivering oil products from Russia to North Korea.

Finally, the Treasury Department sanctioned the North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry.

Reuters interviewed a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who said she did not have all the details about the new sanctions but vowed that China would investigate companies or individuals that defy U.N. sanctions.

“China resolutely opposes any country using its own laws to carry out long-arm jurisdiction on Chinese companies or individuals,” she added in a criticism of the U.S. Treasury action.

China’s state-run Global Times denounced the new sanctions in even stronger terms, complaining that they were not applied within the framework of the U.N. Security Council and violate the sovereignty of China and Russia by affecting companies within those nations.

On the other hand, the Global Times frowned on North Korea’s grandstanding about “reunification,” framing it as a distraction from disarmament issues, and suggesting sanctions are beginning to take their toll on the Kim regime.

U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker warned Hong Kong on Wednesday that it needs to work harder to block North Korean smuggling and money laundering.

“We have also stressed here in Hong Kong the importance of having the appropriate mechanism in place to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions and other regulations prohibiting activities that facilitate financial transactions with North Korea,” Mandelker said.

Also on Wednesday, Japan reported a North Korean tanker operating in the East China Sea to the United Nations, on suspicions it was transferring goods to a Dominican-flagged tanker in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

The North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1 was blacklisted for carrying banned cargo by the U.N. in December. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol plane that spotted the two ships working together said the North Korean vessel had taken measures to disguise its name.

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