The Trump administration may issue new sanctions against small Chinese banks and firms linked to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs, two senior U.S. officials told Reuters.
The specific targets, which have not been named, include what one official described as “low-hanging fruit” in the banking industry as well as “shell” companies believed to be aiding Pyongyang.
Whether the potential sanctions, which have been crafted thus far to exclude large Chinese banks, will be implemented depends partially on the outcome of a high-level meeting in Washington next week in which the U.S. will pressure Chinese officials to take a tougher stance towards North Korea.
The list of targets is said to be numbering “substantially more than 10” and was reportedly shown to Chinese President Xi Jinping for review by President Trump in Florida last April.
According to one of the U.S. officials, China has failed to provide an adequate response to the list, which could result in a “more aggressive approach to sanctioning Chinese entities… in the not-too-distant future.”
“The president is losing patience with China” the official said.
China would have to take noticeable measures in reining in Pyongyang for the U.S. to reconsider sanctions.
“They’d have to show they’re really serious,” the second official said. “We’re not going to be paralyzed into inaction.”
While Trump initially expressed confidence in China’s ability to slow North Korea’s weapons programs, last week’s successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, believed to be capable of reaching Alaska and potentially the U.S. West Coast, has spurred the commander-in-chief to take a more direct approach.
The White House placed sanctions last month on a shipping company and two Chinese citizens linked to Pyongyang’s weapons programs. It also accused the Bank of Dandong of laundering money for the regime, though some remain doubtful as to whether such actions will be enough to deter North Korea.
Ri Jong Ho, who helped raise millions of dollars for the Kim regime for nearly three decades, told the Washington Post Thursday that North Korea is largely unaffected by U.S. efforts.
“North Korea is a 100 percent state enterprise, so these companies just change their names the day after they’re sanctioned,” Ri said. “That way the company continues, but with a different name than the one on the sanctions list.”
“My partners in China also want to make a profit, so they don’t care much about sanctions. When the Chinese government orders them to stop, they stop for a few days and then start up again.”
The former money man, who now lives in the United States with his family after defecting to South Korea in 2014, says only an effort that includes both China and Russia will have an effect.
“Unless China, Russia and the United States cooperate fully to sanction North Korea, it will be impossible to hurt them,” Ri said.
Given that China prefers a North Korean buffer between itself and the United States’ ally in the south, the Trump administration must weigh its options and decide how best to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
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