U.S. turns the financial screws on North Korea

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U.S. turns the financial screws on North Korea

WASHINGTON - The United States blacklisted one North Korean trading firm and 11 individuals Friday as it further tightens financial restrictions on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

Paeksol Trading Corp. was sanctioned for involvement in trading in North Korean coal and minerals, a key source of hard currency for Pyongyang, and the 11 individuals were blacklisted for representing trading firms and banks that have already been sanctioned for their links to weapons proliferation.

Ten of the 11 individuals are based overseas, not only in China and Russia where North Korean business operations are active, but also in Cuba and Vietnam. That could be a warning to other countries not to do business with the North.

“Today’s action targets North Korean nationals working as agents of the regime in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba to provide financial support or weapons of mass destruction procurement services for UN or U.S.-designated sanctioned entities,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Under the sanctions, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with any of the designated parties.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the latest sanctions are aimed at “disrupting the networks and methods that the government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs.”

“These sanctions underscore this administration’s commitment to countering the threat to the United States, to our allies, and to stability on the Korean peninsula and in the wider Asia Pacific region posed by the Kim regime in Pyongyang, and I urge our partners and allies to take similar measures to cut off its funding,” he said.

Three of the blacklisted North Koreans - Kang Chol-su, Pak Il-kyu and Ri Su-yong - are officials of Korea Ryonbong General Corp., which has been accused of providing support for the North’s chemical weapons program.

The designation came as concerns about Pyongyang’s chemical weapons have risen in the wake of revelations that the nerve gas VX was used in the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Malaysia last month.

The other blacklisted individuals are: Jang Sung-nam, chief of the Tangun Trading Corp. branch in Dalian, China; Jo Chol-song, Korea Kwangson Banking Corp, deputy representative in Dandong, China; Kim Mun-chol, Korea United Development Bank representative in China; Kim Nam-ung, Ilsim International Bank representative in Moscow; Choe Chun-yong, Ilsim International Bank representative in Moscow; Kim Tong-ho, Tanchon Commercial Bank representative in Vietnam; Kim Yong-su, chief representative of the Marine Transport Office in Vietnam; and Han Jang-su, Foreign Trade Bank chief representative in Moscow.

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