U.S. pressures Pyongyang with new unilateral sanctions

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U.S. pressures Pyongyang with new unilateral sanctions

On the eve of the top American diplomat’s trip to Pyongyang, Washington Thursday announced sanctions on a Turkish company and three individuals for involvement in weapons and luxury goods trading with North Korea.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it is targeting SIA Falcon International Group, a company based in Turkey with a branch in Latvia, for involvement in the import and export of arms or related materials and luxury goods to and from North Korea in violation of U.S. and UN Security Council sanctions.

It also blacklisted two Turkish citizens, Huseyin Sahin, the company’s CEO, and Erhan Culha, its general manager. A third individual, Ri Song-un, an economic and commercial counselor at the North Korean Embassy in Mongolia, was sanctioned for helping negotiate SIA Falcon’s deals involving weapons and luxury goods in Turkey earlier this year.

The latest unilateral measure sends the message that the United States remains committed to stringent sanctions on the North, seen as a means of cutting off funding for the regime’s nuclear and missile weapons programs. It comes as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departs for a four-day Asia trip Friday, taking him to Tokyo, Pyongyang, Seoul and Beijing. On Sunday, Pompeo is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, seen as a pivotal moment to restart stalled denuclearization negotiations and work out a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump to follow up on their first meeting on June 12 in Singapore.

“The international community must not stand idly by as UN sanctions are being circumvented,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “The United States is deeply committed to the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and will continue to enforce and implement sanctions until that time.”

Assets of the designated individuals within the United States will be blocked and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement Friday noted the latest U.S. unilateral measures are “in accordance with the U.S. position that implementation of sanctions on the North, alongside dialogue, is essential in order to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea has been calling for easing of the sanctions, with some backing by its allies China and Russia, veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, who support a phase-by-phase approach toward denuclearization.

The United States, in turn, has adhered to the position that it will not let up on sanctions until the North’s complete denuclearization.

A delegation of diplomats led by North Korean Vice Minister Choe Son-hui left Pyongyang Thursday to attend negotiations with China in Beijing and talks with Russian counterparts in Moscow, reported the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has often talked with Chinese officials ahead of key negotiations with the United States.

North Korean state media and propaganda websites have ramped up language against the United States over sanctions leading up to Pompeo’s arrival.

An English article on Uriminzokkiri, a government-run propaganda website, cited a Rodong Sinmun commentary Thursday and called out the United States for insisting “that sanctions against the DPRK will be sustained until denuclearization has been completed” and for insisting that the security of the Korean Peninsula “depends on the full implementation of sanctions” at the UN General Assembly and Security Council last month. DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It added that Secretary of State Pompeo made participants “tense” in the Security Council meeting he chaired on Sept. 27, as he called for countries to adhere to sanctions on the North and said that those who violate the UNSC resolution will be held “accountable.”

“We will never beg the U.S. to lift the sanctions as before,” the article read, adding that the United States claims that “the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is its goal but it blocks denuclearization of its own accord.”

However, a U.S. State Department official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Voice of America Friday, “Sanctions will remain in full effect should North Korea fail to denuclearize. The full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by the international community brought us to this moment, and are necessary for a successful outcome of this process.”

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