After President Trump’s Monday announcement that he was adding North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terror, the U.S. treasury followed up with a flurry of new sanctions aimed at dissuading Kim Jong Un’s regime from their continued pursuit of nuclear arms.

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,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement that accompanied the sanctions.

According to the treasury, the new sanctions, which target one individual, 13 entities and 20 vessels, are mostly aimed at “third country persons” with long-standing commercial ties to the North Korean state, as well as transportation networks that facilitate North Korean revenue generation.

The Treasury Department explained that North Korea has been known to employ “deceptive shipping practices” aimed at circumventing existing sanctions.  By targeting entities tied to import, export and international transportation, they hope to curb any opportunities for Kim’s regime to produce revenue through such deceptive practices.

Chief among these deceptive practices is something the Treasury referred to as “ship to ship transfers.”  North Korean flagged vessels that would not be permitted to enter foreign ports to sell their goods simply meet up with non-North Korean ships out at sea, and move their goods onto the other vessel.  The North Korean goods are then transported via third-party ships to ports where they are sold to produce revenue for Kim’s regime.

The images below, provided by the Treasury Department’s statement, were taken on October 19, 2017.  They appear to show a recent attempt by Korea Kumbyol Trading Company’s vessel RYE SONG GANG 1 to transfer its goods onto another vessel to be sold at a foreign port.

US Treasury photo

Among the other targets were entities tied to the exportation of labor, something North Korea relies on to as a powerful revenue producer for the state government.  North Korean citizens work in other countries in what some have called slave-like conditions, with the majority of the money funneled back into the government rather than being paid directly to the laborer.

These are expected to be only the first of a new volley of sanctions targeting companies that have been illegally cooperating with North Korea and undermining efforts to force Kim to the negotiating table.  North Korea has made it clear on multiple occasions that their nuclear aims are not up for negotiation, even going so far as to say that they will not even enter into diplomatic talks with the United States until they have confirmed their capability to launch a nuclear strike on the United States’ East Coast, where a number of major cities, including the nation’s capital, can be found.

A North Korean soldier who defected across the demilitarized zone into South Korea last week may have offered some signs that these sanctions are having an effect on Kim’s military.  The soldier was malnourished, in poor health and, most notably, riddled with parasitic worms, some reaching lengths of nearly 11 inches.  Because border guards are usually among the most well-fed in the North Korean military, the soldier’s physical condition may be indicative of limited rations and worsening conditions for North Korea’s army, likely brought about by tightening sanctions levied by the U.S. and United Nations.


Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA