The United States issued a new series of sanctions aiming to hinder North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile platforms needed to carry them, this time, targeting a number of Chinese and Russian entities and individuals accused of skirting U.N. and U.S. sanctions.
Kim Jong-un’s North Korean regime’s ballistic missile program has made fast progress in recent months, and recently successfully fielded a truly intercontinental ballistic missile that experts believe can reach targets as far away as the East Coast of the continental United States. Although the second test appeared to show the North Korean re-entry vehicle failing to survive the trip back through the atmosphere, these tests coupled with the revelation that Kim now possesses small enough nuclear warheads to mount on such a missile, have dramatically increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Last week, Kim Jong-un announced that he would pause his military plan to launch four ballistic missiles toward Guam, a U.S. territory that houses thousands of American troops, as well as a sizeable civilian population. The U.S. is currently participating in a series of military exercises along the North Korean border with ally South Korea however, which has once again brought tensions between American and Kim’s regime to the forefront of concern for many in the region.
Throughout the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China has repeated claimed to seek a denuclearized North Korea, while simultaneously being an outspoken critic of the U.S. led international effort to secure such a nuclear-free outcome. Many, including President Trump, have accused China of not exercising its massive financial leverage over Kim’s regime to bring the standoff to a halt. China also provided North Korea with six large timber trucks, which North Korea converted into ICBM transportation and launch vehicles, despite China claiming they were not sold with that intent.
According to a press release provided by the U.S. Treasury, this new round of sanctions are directed at organizations and individuals that are guilty of working to aid the “ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), violations of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions, and attempted evasion of U.S. sanctions.”
Today’s sanctions target third-country companies and individuals that (1) assist already-designated persons who support North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, (2) deal in the North Korean energy trade, (3) facilitate its exportation of workers, and (4) enable sanctioned North Korean entities to access the U.S. and international financial systems.” The Treasury statement reads.
The sanctions, which freeze any U.S.-based assets and prevent any of these individuals or organizations from doing business with U.S. based businesses or citizens, include China’s Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co., Ltd., which the treasury accuses of purchasing vanadium ore from Korea Kumsan Trading Corporation to funnel into North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – a violation China should have prevented. Gefest-M LLC, a Moscow-based company, is also cited as procuring “metals” for Kim’s nuclear program, along with the Hong Kong based Mingzheng International Trading Limited, who the U.S. believes works as a front for North Korean foreign trade.
Other sanctions target companies and individuals accused of indirectly supporting North Korean nuclear and missile efforts through overseas labor revenue and the illegal import of North Korean coal.
Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region. We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”
Image courtesy of Russian Government news service TASS