US Slaps Sanctions on North Korea over Military, Nuclear Programs, Russian Firms Also Affected

Photo: How Hwee Young/EPA/Rex/Shutterstock

  • US has introduced new sanctions again North Korea against the backdrop of its continuing provocations.
  • Sanctions target North Korea’s military, nuclear, and weapons of mass destruction programs, its revenue from labor, coal, and minerals, as well as its overseas financial operations.
  • US will continue to increase pressure on the “hostile regime” in North Korea, OFAC Director John E. Smith, has vowed.
  • Sanctions are based on US executive orders targeting WMD proliferators, the North Korean government and its sources of revenue.

The United States has imposed new sanctions on North Korea and international entities providing it with various supplies amid continuing missile and other provocations by the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has alleged that its latest ballistic missile firing has been a successful test of a precision-guided system as it has been known to be in pursuit of developing an “aircraft carrier killer”, i.e. an anti-ship ballistic missile.

On Monday, North Korea performed its 10th ballistic missile firing since since Donald Trump became President of the United States, with seven successful and three failed tests. For the past three weeks, it has been firing a ballistic missile each week.

Pyongyang recently said that Kim Jong-un had approved the Pukguksong-2 missile, an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), for mass production.

The recent North Korean provocations have led South Korea to admit that the missile program of Kim Jong-un’s regime is advancing faster than thought, and that a war might be in the making.

North Korea’s regime has claimed that its new rocket could deliver a “large heavy nuclear warhead” all the way to the US mainland.]

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive US missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.

Even though the advanced US missile defense system known as THAAD is already operational in South Korea, and can intercept ballistic missiles launched by the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea, South Korean President Moon ordered an investigation into how four allegedly unreported US missile launchers were brought into the country.

In another development imposing financial restrictions on the North Korean regime, three EU member states – Bulgaria, Czechia, and Romania – suspended their import of North Korean workers over reports that the Kim Jong-un regime extorted its citizens’ foreign earnings.

‘Pressure on This Hostile Regime’

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated on Thursday six entities and three individuals, and identified three entities, in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions.

The US State Department also updated the aliases for two previously designated entities, it said.

It added that its new sanctions target North Korea’s military, nuclear, and weapons of mass destruction programs, its revenue from labor, coal, and minerals, as well as its overseas financial operations.

As a result, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of US persons or within the United States must be blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from doing business with them.

“The United States will continue to target individuals and entities responsible for financing and supporting North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and will continue to increase pressure on this hostile regime,” OFAC Director John E. Smith said.

“Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea’s destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources,” he elaborated.

The new US sanctions adopted by the Department of Treasury are based on executive orders targeting WMD proliferators and their supporters; the Government of North Korea, the Workers’ Party of Korea, and their supporters; and in part, North Korea’s revenue from coal, metal, and labor, as well as its energy and financial services industries.

Military, Nuclear, and WMD Programs

OFAC identified the State Affairs Commission (SAC), the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces (MPAF) as agencies, instrumentalities, or controlled entities of the Government of North Korea.

North Korea’s State Affairs Council, a new supreme policy guidance organ established under a revised constitution in 2016, replaced the previously designated National Defense Commission. The SAC is chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un himself.

The Korean People’s Army is the armed forces of North Korea and is also controlled by the SAC and Kim Jong Un.

The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces has administrative authority over the KPA and administers the KPA’s diplomacy, logistics, finances, and external affairs, the US Treasury Department explains.

In a related action, the State Department updated the alias for the UN- and US-designated Korea Tangun Trading Corporation (Tangun) with Korea Kuryonggang Trading Corporation, and the alias for the UN- and US-designated Namchongang Trading Corporation (NCG) with Korea Taeryonggang Trading Corporation.

Tangun is subordinate to the Second Academy of Natural Sciences and was designated in 2009 for its involvement in North Korea’s WMD and missile programs.  NCG is subordinate to the General Bureau of Atomic Energy and is involved in nuclear-related procurement.  Tangun, NCG, the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, and the General Bureau of Atomic Energy were all previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13382.

OFAC also designated Moscow-based Ardis-Bearings LLC and its director, Igor Aleksandrovich Michurin, for their support to Tangun.  Ardis-Bearings LLC is a company that provides supplies to Tangun, and Michurin is a frequent business partner of Tangun officials in Moscow.

OFAC also designated Kim Su-Kwang, an official of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), North Korea’s primary intelligence organization, pursuant.  Kim Su-Kwang is reported to have operated under cover for the RGB at a UN organization in Europe.


US Treasury department designated the Korea Computer Center (KCC), a state-run IT research and development center.

The KCC generates money for the North Korean regime through software development and programming, including North Korea’s “Red Star” operating system.

The KCC is reported to have overseas locations in Germany, China, Syria, India, and the Middle East.

As of 2014, KCC allegedly earned foreign currency for the UN- and US-designated Munitions Industry Department, which is responsible for overseeing North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

OFAC designated the Independent Petroleum Company (IPC).  IPC is a Russian company that has signed a contract to provide oil to North Korea and reportedly has shipped over USD 1 million worth of petroleum products to North Korea.

IPC also may have been involved in circumventing North Korean sanctions. OFAC also designated one of IPC’s subsidiaries, AO NNK-Primornefteproduct

Other targets of the new US sanctions include the Songi Trading Company, which is subordinate to the KPA and involved in exporting North Korean coal, and the Korea Zinc Industrial Group, the major North Korean zinc company.

The US State Department notes the Korea Zinc Industrial Group has sold, supplied, or transferred zinc from North Korea.  It has been reported that the export of minerals, like zinc, has been a vital source of revenue for Pyongyang.

OFAC designated Ri Song-hyok pursuant to E.O. 13722.  Ri Song-hyok is a Beijing-based official for US-designated Koryo Bank and Koryo Credit Development Bank.

He has reportedly established several front companies in order to procure items and conduct financial transactions on behalf of North Korea.

Koryo Bank and Koryo Credit Development Bank were previously designated for operating in the financial services industry in the North Korea economy.

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