US announces new sanctions on North Korea

New US sanctions target Chinese company, its North Korean CEO and its Russia-based sister company.

Ben Ariel ,

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shake hands
Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shake hands

The US on Thursday announced new sanctions against North Korea, taking aim at a Chinese company, its North Korean CEO and its Russia-based sister company, CNN reports.

The two information technology companies are actually North Korean-controlled entities, the Treasury Department said in a statement that accused the Russia-based company Volasys Silver Star, China-based China Silver Star and its CEO Jong Song Hwa of violating US sanctions.

"These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disguising their true identities and hiding behind front companies, aliases, and third-party nationals," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

He warned the "IT industry, businesses, and individuals across the globe to take precautions to ensure that they are not unwittingly employing North Korean workers for technology projects by doing business with companies like the ones designated today."

Thursday's sanctions announcement is the latest sign the US is moving to increase pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore in June and signed an agreement which includes a commitment to achieve total denuclearization of Korea, with promises to pursue “vigorous negotiations” to that end.

Subsequent reports suggested that despite its commitment to denuclearize, North Korea has continued to expand infrastructure at nuclear and missile sites.

Trump recently called off a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but later insisted the United States is “doing well” in its diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said the US and allies are days away from launching a new effort to more publicly expose North Korean violations of sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear and missile programs, two defense officials told CNN.

The defense officials said North Korea is regularly employing "deceptive tactics to evade UN sanctions" with ship-to-ship transfers, and while the US and allies have been working quietly to thwart that smuggling, the effort will now become more public in an effort to "name and shame" Pyongyang and its enablers.

Thursday’s Treasury announcement said that North Korea sells a range of IT services and products abroad, including website and app development, security software, and biometric identification software that have military and law enforcement applications. And it urged caution, warning businesses to be aware that North Korean firms use deceptive practices, disguising themselves through the use of front companies, aliases, and third-country nationals who act as facilitators.