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(2nd LD) U.S. announces new sanctions over N.K. weapons program

by January 24, 2018 General

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS Seoul’s response in 7th para)

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, The United States on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on a slew of entities and individuals over their links to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Treasury Department said in a statement it is sanctioning nine entities, including two Chinese firms, 16 North Korean individuals and six North Korean vessels.

“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,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The U.S. is also targeting “illicit actors” in China, Russia and elsewhere with links to the North’s financial networks, and calling for their expulsion, he said.

Washington has been tightening the screws on Pyongyang to stop its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that pose an increasing threat to the U.S. mainland.

The latest sanctions come about a month after the Treasury blocked any U.S. property and transactions of two senior North Korean officials involved in the ballistic missile program.

South Korea’s foreign ministry called the U.S. action a reaffirmation of Washington’s commitment to “peacefully” resolving the North’s nuclear problem and also part of joint efforts by the international community to bring the reclusive state out to the path toward denuclearization.

The new targets are subject to the same restrictions.

They include Beijing Chengxing Trading and Dandong Jinxiang Trade — two Chinese companies the Treasury accused of exporting a combined total of more than US$68 million in goods to the North in violation of U.S. and United Nations sanctions. The firms also imported more than $19 million worth of goods from the North.

The other entities are five North Korean shipping companies, one North Korean electronics company, and the North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry.

The sanctioned individuals include 10 representatives of the North’s Korea Ryonbong General Corp., which the Treasury described as specializing in the regime’s defense acquisition and supporting its military-related sales.

One individual was identified as an official of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, while the remaining five were designated for their links to the regime’s financial networks.

The six vessels were tied to the five North Korean shipping companies.

“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,” Mnuchin said.

The designations come as tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons pursuit have eased somewhat amid inter-Korean talks on the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency