EU hits North with new sanctions

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EU hits North with new sanctions

The European Union Monday adopted new sanctions on North Korea in a foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, banning the sale of crude oil and refined petroleum products to the country.

It also imposed a total ban on EU investments across all sectors of the North Korean economy. The ban was previously limited to investment in the nuclear and conventional arms-related industry.

The Council of the European Union further slashed the amount of personal remittances to North Korea from 15,000 Euros to 5,000 Euros. It will not renew work permits for North Korean nationals, except for refugees and others under international protection, in accordance to the latest UN Security Council resolution.

Three individuals and six entities linked to the North’s illicit weapons programs were also blacklisted by the council, subjecting them to travel restrictions and freezing of assets, bringing the total number sanctioned by the European Union to 41 individuals and 10 entities.

“The sanctions are envisaged exactly to put pressure to open a political path,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said in a statement, “to show that agreements that were the results of a combination of sanctions and political negotiations are preserved, especially if they work.”

The move comes as the international community is working to choke off revenue for Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction program, with greater urgency especially following the North’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.

In its unanimously adopted Sept. 11 resolution, the UN Security Council capped exports of crude oil and refined petroleum products to the country, banned its textile exports and barred authorization of new work permits for North Korean workers.

The oil embargo on North Korea imposed by the European Union is largely symbolic, since it does not sell oil to Pyongyang.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likewise signed a decree made available online Monday imposing restrictions on North Korea in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2321 passed last November. Russia imposed sanctions on 11 North Korean individuals and 10 companies said to be linked with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.

The presidential decree, which went into effect Friday, banned exports to North Korea of 80 chemical substances and types of equipment and software that may be used to produce nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

It also restricted exports of luxury items, including tapestries and carpets worth over $500 and porcelain and fine bone china kitchenware worth over $100, according to Russia’s official Tass news agency.

Putin also ordered that sea vessels linked to the North’s nuclear program be stripped of their Russian registration and banned from entering Russian ports, except in the case of emergencies.

This comes as a North Korean delegation visited St. Petersburg for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly, which was also attended by a South Korean team led by National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun.

But as the Security Council pushes for the full implementation of its sanctions on North Korea, loopholes remain.

CNN reported Wednesday that Hong Kong is a preferred location for North Korean money launderers, pointing to a 2016 report by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit firm, which identified 160 North Korean front companies in Hong Kong.

Hugh Griffiths, the coordinator of a UN Security Council panel of experts on North Korea sanctions, told CNN that Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands are where he has seen the largest share of North Korean-controlled front companies operating, pointing out that “it’s the closest major international financial center” and “closest major offshore international financial center to North Korea.”

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