The Treasury Department on Tuesday placed sanctions on Chinese and Russian individuals and firms that it said had conducted business with North Korea in ways that advanced the country’s missile and nuclear weapons program, part of a broad effort by the Trump administration to further isolate the regime.
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. It was the fifth set of U.S. sanctions related to North Korea this year and the largest.
In a related move, two legal complaints were filed Tuesday by the Justice Department seeking the forfeiture of $11 million from two of the sanctioned companies believed to have been laundering money on behalf of North Korea.
The complaints, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, would represent two of the largest seizures of North Korean funds.
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, the administration 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 Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho declared that North Korea would never relinquish its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
But even as two federal agencies were taking stern measures against North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a gesture of appreciation to Pyongyang, welcoming its apparent restraint in not conducting any new weapons tests since the latest U.N. sanctions were adopted Aug. 5.
“The sanctions send a strong message to Beijing and Moscow to stop facilitating North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which favors tougher sanctions on Russia and China over North Korea. “The action is one element of a pressure campaign that also includes targeting illicit financial transactions and pressuring U.S. allies to choose between business with the United States or North Korea.”
But in a display of the Kremlin’s anger over sanctions placed on four Russian individuals and one Russian company, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the United States had again “stepped on the same rake.” He called the new sanctions the latest example of the United States damaging its relationship with Russia.
“In recent years, Washington ‘in theory’ should have learned that for us the language of sanctions is unacceptable,” Ryabkov said in a statement. “The solution of real problems is only hindered by such actions. So far, however, it does not seem that they have come to an understanding of such obvious truths.”
Source: The Washington Post