The United States has issued sanctions against Chinese and Russian firms and individuals accused of aiding North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons program.
The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that the new measures would target 10 entities and six individuals in an effort to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong-Un.
“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 in a statement. “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 Treasury Department made specific mention of funds generated by North Korean oil and coal as well as overseas labor.
“We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future,” Mnuchin added.
The new actions came as the U.S. Justice Department filed two legal complaints Tuesday seeking $11 million from two sanctioned companies suspected of laundering money for Pyongyang. If successful, the move would produce the largest ever seizure of funds from North Korea.
Earlier this month the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea for its refusal to adhere to a ban on testing nuclear bombs and missiles.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley described the resolution, which aims to cut the Kim regime’s export revenue by $1 billion, as “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.”
The increased economic pressure on North Korea, spearheaded by the administration of President Donald Trump, comes amid escalating tensions between Washington D.C. and Pyongyang.
North Korea accused the United States and South Korea of “pouring gasoline on fire” this week as the two nations moved forward with the annual military exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian.
“The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us, and no one can guarantee that the exercise won’t evolve into actual fighting,” the North’s official Rodong Sinmun daily wrote.
The war games follow threats by Pyongyang to fire intermediate ballistic missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, a plan currently placed on hold by the Kim regime, and threats by Trump to deliver “fire and fury” against the rogue nation.
The North is believed to be capable of striking the U.S. mainland after conducting two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month. Analysts have also indicated that Pyongyang has likely created a compact nuclear warhead able to survive the reentry phase of its long-range missiles.
Despite the bellicose threats on the forefront, the Trump administration and North Korea is reported to have been quietly communicating for several months through a diplomatic backchannel.