US sanctions Chinese and Russian companies and individuals for conducting business with North Korea – Washington Post
By Carol Morello,
As part of a broad effort to further isolate North Korea, the Treasury Department on Tuesday placed sanctions on Chinese and Russian individuals and firms it said had conducted business with the country in ways that advanced its missile and nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions against 10 companies and six individuals are designed to disrupt the economic ties that have allowed Pyongyang to continue funding its missile and nuclear program despite strict United Nations sanctions prohibiting it.
U.S. sanctions, even though they are imposed by just one country, have an outsized influence because most international banking is conducted in U.S. dollars. The measures prohibit U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with the sanctioned companies.
The Trump administration has been trying to strengthen the economic vise on North Korea in an effort to persuade it to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons development. Last month, it pushed a new round of sanctions against North Korea at the U.N. Security Council. In response, North Korea vowed retaliation “a thousand times over,” and its Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho declared it would never relinquish its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Though U.S. military officials and President Trump have said the United States is prepared to take some sort of military action against North Korea if provoked, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pointedly called for Pyongyang to negotiate and said repeatedly that the United States does not seek regime change.
Despite the diplomatic push, China in particular has been a sore point in making existing sanctions stick. Beijing has largely gone along with restrictions, at least for a time, and supported an escalating series of U.N. sanctions. But many Chinese companies have continued to do business with the regime by supplying technology and hardware for its missiles. China is believed to be responsible for 90 percent of North Korea’s international trade.
The sanctions announced Tuesday by the Office of Foreign Assets Control were predominantly against Chinese companies that have dealt with North Korea by purchasing and selling coal, oil and mineral resources, or have provided banking services that made the transactions possible.
The sanctions also hit two companies that arranged for North Korean laborers to build statues in foreign countries. Tillerson has been urging countries that have relations with North Korea to downsize Pyongyang’s diplomatic presence, and refuse to hire North Korean labor. Overseas labor is a source of revenue for the North Korean government, and the Treasury Department contends some of the laborers’ income helped finance ballistic missile testing.
“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
He added: “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region.”
The sanctions hit three specific types of business dealings that provide a window into how North Korea uses companies in other countries to evade sanctions.
China-based Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co. was sanctioned for buying vanadium ore from a company tied to North Korea’s atomic energy agency. The Russian firm Gefest-M allegedly procured metals for a North Korean mining company with a Moscow office. The Chinese company Mingzheng International Trading was accused of facilitating dollar transactions on behalf of North Korea’s proliferation network.
In addition, three Chinese coal companies were sanctioned for importing nearly $500 million of North Korean coal between 2013 and 2016. The Treasury Department said coal trade generates more than $1 billion a year for North Korea, an activity that was targeted in U.N. sanctions imposed last November.
One company sold North Korean anthracite coal and allegedly used the proceeds to buy goods it shipped to North Korea, including nuclear and missile components. Three Russian individuals and two Singapore-based companies were accused of buying millions of dollars of oil that was delivered to North Korea.
In a blow to North Korea’s revenue from overseas labor, the Treasury Department sanctioned Mansudae Overseas Projects for helping North Korean laborers work abroad, usually in countries with authoritarian rulers, to build statues that immortalize the dictators.
According to the Treasury, Kim Tong-Chol, Mansudae’s managing director, arranged for Qingdao Construction, a Namibia-based subsidiary of a Chinese company, to take over four Namibian government-sponsored construction projects as well as the employees and materials associated with the work.
Powered by WPeMatico