U.S. sanctions North Korean companies

United States slaps new sanctions on North Korean and Chinese firms and individuals which support the North's nuclear weapons program.

Ben Ariel ,

Steven Mnuchin
Steven Mnuchin

The United States on Wednesday slapped new sanctions on North Korean and Chinese firms and individuals that it said support the Pyongyang regime of Kim Jong Un and his nuclear weapons program, AFP reported.

The new sanctions issued by the Treasury included representatives of North Korean companies and banks mostly based in China and Russia; North Korean shipping companies and six specific vessels; and two Chinese trading firms.

"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," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement quoted by AFP.

Following UN sanctions, Mnuchin said, "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.

"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," he said.

The sanctions seek to lock those named out of the global economy by banning American individuals and companies -- including foreign banks and trading firms with American entities -- from doing business with them.

Ten of the individuals listed for sanctions were representatives of Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, a UN-designated company that makes acquisitions and supports sales for the North Korea defense industry.

Most were based in Chinese cities on the border with North Korea, nearby Russian cities, where they helped arrange shipping of materials and goods to North Korea, noted AFP.

Last month, the U.S. announced sanctions on two North Korean officials behind their country’s ballistic missile program.

The two rounds of sanctions follow increased tensions on the Korean peninsula as North Korea continues conducting missile and nuclear tests, in defiance of international pressure and United Nations resolutions.

Most recently, North Korea launched a Hwasong-15 missile, a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which officials said can fly over 13,000 km (8,080 miles).

Pyongyang said following the launch that it had test-fired its most advanced missile, putting the U.S. mainland within range, and also declared itself to be "a responsible nuclear power".

Kim last month claimed that his country has developed the capability to hit the entire U.S. mainland with its nuclear weapons.

“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said in a televised New Year’s Day speech.

U.S. President Donald Trump later fired back, writing on Twitter, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Trump later toned down his rhetoric, saying dialogue with Pyongyang was not impossible.

The president added that any discussions with North Korea would be accompanied by unspecified conditions, while U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed North Korea would have to stop conducting nuclear tests before the United States would enter into any talks with it.