As UN names firms aiding North, U.S. seeks more sanctions

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As UN names firms aiding North, U.S. seeks more sanctions

A United Nations panel of experts has identified some 57 Chinese, Malaysian and North Korean companies that may have helped Pyongyang evade sanctions and finance its nuclear weapons program.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to expand sanctions aimed at North Korea to include the businesses described by U.S. and United Nations officials as components of North Korea’s illicit financing networks.

Of the 57 companies identified by the UN panel, 43 have yet to be sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury, it added. This includes Glocom, described as a Malaysia-based North Korean company accused of using front companies to sell communication systems, in violation of UN sanctions.

Another network was identified as Vast Win Trading, a transport firm whose ship, the Jie Shun, was seized in Egypt last year with 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades made in North Korea. Sun Sidong, a Chinese businessman, was named the owner of the ship, and was reported to have ties with another Chinese national, Chi Yupeng, who has been targeted by the United States.

Sun, reported to be the owner of Dandong Dongyuan Industrial, which is linked to a Chinese company, allegedly helped North Korea evade sanctions. He made news in August for listing a Long Island home for nearly $1.3 million.

First Eastern Bank in Rason special economic zone in North Korea, owned by Unaforte Hong Kong, was among several banks in North Korea listed by the UN investigators as being established, managed or owned by Chinese firms, according to the report.

U.S. lawmakers and Treasury Department officials have also named over a dozen other firms and ships, according to the Wall Street Journal, which are seen to be helping the Kim Jong-un regime evade sanctions.

This includes networks of banks, shipping companies, arms sellers and other firms operating in mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and West Africa. Following the North’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, the New York-based UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2375 aimed at further cutting off revenue for North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, including by setting caps on its oil supplies.

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced later that month new unilateral sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 North Korean nationals who act as representatives for the country’s banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

At the end of September, China ordered North Korean companies and joint ventures operating in the country to close down within 120 days, following the approval of the latest Security Council resolution.

Last Tuesday, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, introduced comprehensive bipartisan legislation expanding North Korea sanctions.

The legislation calls on the president to block any entity or financial institution involved in any significant trade in goods or services with North Korea from the U.S. financial system, including the top 10 companies doing business with North Korea.

It also authorizes the downgrading of U.S. relations with, or reducing assistance to, countries that fail to take measures to diplomatically and economically isolate North Korea.

The Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act of 2017, according to Gardner in a statement, provides “nations and companies a clear choice - do business with the United States or do business with North Korea.”

Sen. Patrick Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat of Maryland, are also advancing bipartisan legislation that would require mandatory sanctions against all foreign banks financing North Korea.

The Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (Brink) Act, modeled after the Iran sanctions, also calls to block any administration from unilaterally lifting the sanctions without congressional consent.

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