New US sanctions on North Korea ships, Chinese traders

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The new US sanctions against North Korea are the latest salvo from Washington in President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure campaign" against Kim Jong-Un

The United States on Tuesday
unveiled new sanctions targeting North Korean shipping and Chinese
traders doing business with Pyongyang, again raising the pressure on the
pariah state to abandon its nuclear program. The measures came a day after President Donald Trump declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, a spot on a US blacklist Pyongyang had shed nearly a decade ago.
“These
designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North
Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars,”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

“We
are also sanctioning the shipping and transportation companies, and
their vessels, that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive
maneuvers.”
On Monday, Trump had
said the sanctions announcement would be the first in a series of moves
over the next two weeks that would reinforce his “maximum pressure
campaign” against Kim Jong-Un’s regime.
As
had been expected, the Treasury measures make use of existing US
directives against North Korean trade, but expand their scope to take in
more companies and individuals.
Most
importantly, they expand the list of Chinese firms accused of doing
business with the North despite promises from Beijing that it will honor
UN-backed punitive measures.
Trump met China’s President Xi Jinping earlier
this month and is bullish about the US-China relationship, but concerns
remain that Beijing is not ready to take tough measures against Kim.

‘More should be done’

In
particular, China has been reluctant to cut off oil supplies through a
pipeline to North Korea’s lone refinery, fearing that regime collapse
could lead to chaos on their common border.
And,
according to US officials, some Chinese-based banks and trading firms
continue to do business with the North in defiance of UN sanctions and
US threats of unilateral measures.
“We still hope all relevant parties can contribute to easing tensions,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday, after the US terror designation.
“More should be done in that regard,” he added.
China
has pushed for a “dual track approach” which would see the United
States freeze its military drills in South Korea while North Korea would
halt its weapons programs.
Washington has rejected that approach.
According to Mnuchin, the sanctions would not only increase Pyongyang’s isolation but also expose “its evasive tactics.”
In all, the new measures add one individual, 13 trading entities and 20 ships to US sanctions lists.
Any
property or assets of the firms involved that are found to be in areas
under US jurisdiction are to be frozen, and Americans are banned from
trading with them.
Three Chinese firms — Dandong Kehua Economy and Trade, Dandong Xianghe Trading Company and Dandong Hongda Trade — are said to have sold computers, minerals and ore to North Korea.
Chinese businessman Sun Sidong and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial are accused of exporting vehicles, machinery, radio navigation and “items associated with nuclear reactors.”
In
addition to slapping sanctions on the firms and North Korean ships, the
Treasury added the Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation to its
sanctions list.
The firm is alleged to
have sent North Korea guest workers to China, Russia, Cambodia and
Poland. Foreign workers are a major source of income to the regime.
The
White House has said it will not tolerate the North’s testing or
deployment of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a
nuclear warhead to US cities.
Experts
believe Pyongyang is within months of such a threshold, having carried
out six nuclear tests since 2006 and test-fired several types of
missiles, including multi-stage rockets.
Both
Trump and Kim have previously raised fears of open conflict as they
exchanged insults and threats of devastating military strikes.
But
US officials say their main goal is for Pyongyang to back down, in the
face of what they now hope will be inexorable Chinese-backed economic
and diplomatic pressure, and agree to discuss disarmament.

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