China has reacted with anger to new United States sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on nuclear-equipped North Korea, saying the unilateral targeting of Chinese firms and people risked harming co-operation on the problem.
The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled what it called the "largest North Korea-related sanctions tranche to date" targeting one individual, 27 entities, and 28 vessels located, registered, or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama, and Comoros.
The sanctions are Washington's latest attempt to cut off "illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions", US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
"We expect companies and countries to comply with and enforce these sanctions and we will not hesitate to take action against those who do not", she said. Mnuchin told reporters that the US has now imposed more than 450 sanctions against the North, about half of them in the previous year including "virtually all their ships that they're using at this moment in time". "We will see, but hopefully something positive can happen", Trump said.
They said North Korea may be only a few months away from completing development of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the USA mainland, in spite of existing worldwide sanctions that, at times, have been sidestepped by smuggling and ship-to-ship transfers at sea of banned goods. The advisory also alerts industries to North Korea's deceptive shipping practices.
The American action is part of the ongoing maximum economic pressure campaign to cut off sources of revenue that the North Korean regime derives from the United Nations and USA prohibited trade to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, he added.
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It said the move was aimed at shutting down North Korea's illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.
Tighter sanctions plus a more assertive approach at sea could dial up tensions at a time when fragile diplomacy between North and South Korea has gained momentum.
"These actions represent the latest development in the coordinated, whole-of-government United States effort to disrupt, deter and dismantle North Korea's illicit maritime shipping activities that Pyongyang uses to skirt UN sanctions, and to fund its WMD programs and delivery systems", the official said.
A senior administration official told reporters that these designations are a critical part of the US' maximum pressure campaign to diplomatically and economically isolate North Korea.
North Korea has been known to falsify and hide information displayed on North Korean vessels and conduct ship-to-ship transfers, now prohibited by the United Nations.
Moon praised the Winter Olympics for helping to open up dialogue between the countries, which are still technically at war.