U.S. unveils sanctions on firms from North, China

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U.S. unveils sanctions on firms from North, China

A day after relisting Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism, Washington unveiled additional sanctions on Chinese and North Korean trading and shipping companies to further squeeze the regime Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced sanctions on one Chinese individual, 13 entities and 20 North Korea-flagged vessels that are accused of illicitly funding Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions “target third-country persons with long-standing commercial ties to North Korea, as well as the transportation networks that facilitate North Korea’s revenue generation and operations.”

The announcement came one day after U.S. President Donald Trump declared that his Treasury Department will be announcing additional sanctions on North Korea over the next two weeks, which would lead to “the highest level of sanctions by the time it’s finished.”

On Monday, Trump re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism for the first since 2008, as a part of his “maximum pressure campaign” to force the regime to denuclearize.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted 41-year-old Sun Sidong from Dandong in Liaoning Province, northeastern China, and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co. for exporting over $28 million worth of goods to North Korea over several years, such as motor vehicles, electrical machinery, radio navigational equipment and items associated with nuclear reactors. The company has also been associated with front companies for North Korean organizations linked to the production of weapons of mass destruction.

The office designated three other trading companies based in the same region: Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co. and Dandong Hongda Trade Co. They are said to have exported a total of some $650 million worth of goods to North Korea and imported more than $100 million in computers, iron, coal, lead, silver ore and other minerals between Jan. 1, 2013, and Aug. 31 this year.

It also sanctioned six North Korean shipping and trading companies, including Korea Rungrado Shipping Company and Dawn Marine Management. All 20 of the companies’ North Korea-flagged vessels were also blocked.

The Pyongyang-based Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation, which has operated in China, Russia, Cambodia and Poland, was also blacklisted for involvement in the export of workers from North Korea, a practice that generates revenue for the cash-strapped regime and its ruling Workers’ Party.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2375, unanimously approved on Sept. 11, countries are prohibited from providing work authorizations for North Korean nationals without approval. The designation generally prohibits transactions by a U.S. citizen with the blacklisted individuals and also freezes the property or assets of the companies within U.S. jurisdiction.

“As North Korea continues to threaten international peace and security, we are steadfast in our determination to maximize economic pressure to isolate it from outside sources of trade and revenue while exposing its evasive tactics,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a statement.

He added designations include companies “that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” along with shipping and transportation companies, and their vessels, “that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive maneuvers.”

A Chinese Communist Party official said that President Xi Jinping’s special envoy to Pyongyang, Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department, was not able to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his four-day visit to the country, reported the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday.

“Right before Song’s visit to North Korea, he continuously pushed for a meeting with leader Kim but did not receive an answer from the North Korean side,” said the official. “Because [leader Kim] keeps his schedule a secret, and there are instances where the North Korean leader makes a surprise appearance that was not previously scheduled, there had been expectations that such a meeting could take place, but it eventually did not.” The two countries’ official state media have not confirmed a meeting between Song and Kim. The failure of Xi’s special envoy to even meet with the North Korean leader demonstrates China’s limited influence on the regime and also dims any prospect of some sort of breakthrough on the nuclear issue.

The impasse also puts a damper on South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s idea of inviting North Korean athletes to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next February.

Lu Kang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, commented on Trump’s decision to put more pressure on Pyongyang in a briefing. “I don’t see any necessary connection between the timing of President Trump’s announcement and Minister Song Tao’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

China’s national flag carrier Air China was reported to have indefinitely suspended flights to Pyongyang shortly after Song’s visit. An official of the company’s Beijing-based press office told Reuters Wednesday that flights were suspended because “business was not good.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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