By Saleha Mohsin (Bloomberg) — The Trump administration sanctioned three Chinese trading companies on Tuesday as well as North Korean shipping firms and vessels as the U.S. seeks to disrupt funding of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program.
One individual, 13 entities and 20 vessels were sanctioned, the Treasury Department said.
“These designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We are also sanctioning the shipping and transportation companies, and their vessels, that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive maneuvers,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The designations include three Chinese companies that cumulatively export about $650 million worth of goods to North Korea and import about $100 million in goods such as computers, iron, zinc ore and other minerals, the department said. None of the firms sanctioned are publicly traded.
President Donald Trump on Monday announced he would designate North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, reinforcing its status as an international pariah. He warned of “very large” sanctions being prepared.
North Korea has accelerated its nuclear program since the second half of 2017, test-firing long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that could hit the U.S. mainland. The UN Security Council unanimously approved tougher sanctions in August. Trump has followed with further measures, including sanctions and tougher rhetoric, at one time threatening to unleash “fire and fury.”
Years of sanctions against North Korea have done little to slow its nuclear weapons program but analysts say that a new executive order from Trump gives the Treasury Department authority to block North Korea from the global banking system. The order also lets the U.S. ban ships or aircraft that have made stops in North Korea from the U.S. for 180 days.
“In addition to threatening the world with nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said on Monday, explaining his decision to add North Korea to the U.S. terrorist list. Iran, Sudan and Syria are also on the U.S. list of state sponsor’s of terrorism.
North Korea has a track record of escalating and then lowering tensions to win diplomatic and economic benefits and has been on a war footing since its creation in 1948. About 25 million people are in the active military, with reservists numbering 7.6 million. A 2014 UN inquiry accused the regime of human rights abuses that it says are unparalleled in the contemporary world. The abuses include murder, enslavement, torture and sexual violence.
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