Trump Administration Announces 'Largest Ever' Sanctions on North Korea

South Korean people attend a protest opposing Vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's
South Korean people attend a protest opposing Vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee Kim Yong Chol
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24 February, 2018

The designations fit into the administration's larger strategy of economically and diplomatically isolating North Korea in an effort to drive it to denuclearize.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said Friday's move was "the largest tranche of DPRK (North Korea) sanctions" released by the Treasury Department.

The punitive measures, which follow multiple rounds of earlier sanctions, signal US officials' determination to use financial pressure to prompt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to relinquish nuclear weapons, and their concern that under-the-radar fossil fuel trade undermines their ability to do so.

North Korea's missile and nuclear programme is seeking to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

The US president is set to announce new sanctions against 56 vessels, trade entities, and shipping companies that are aimed at maximizing pressure on Pyongyang, which has recently held talks with Seoul to ease the ever-growing tensions on the Korean peninsula and sent its athletes to the 2016 Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang.

A 2018 USA intelligence community assessment said that North Korea's commitment to having nuclear weapons, which it describes as "the basis for its survival", suggests that Pyongyang "does not intend to negotiate them away". Washington and its allies cut off tens of billions of dollars' worth of Iranian oil exports and shut the country's central bank out of the worldwide financial system, among other steps, before eliminating those restrictions under a 2015 nuclear deal. The sanctions were not ready in time to be unveiled on Pence's trip to Japan and South Korea ahead of the Winter Olympics, according to Mnuchin.

Friday's action targets one person, 27 entities and 28 vessels, which are located, registered or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama or the Comoros.

"Ivanka Trump has been briefed on this", Mnuchin said. In January Washington announced a round of sanctions and urged China and Russian Federation to expel North Koreans raising funds for the programs.

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Assets held by the firms within the USA will also be blocked. They capped refined oil imports at 500,000 barrels a year.

"The advisory is meant to alert the world [to] the shipping practices used by North Korea to avoid sanctions and also, of course, to make sure it's loud and clear that there are very significant consequences to evading our sanctions regime and the United Nations sanctions regime", she said.

In an advisory, the Treasury Department, the US State Department and the US Coast Guard, have also warned the public of significant sanctions they could face if they help to enable any shipments of goods to and from North Korea. "Those who trade with North Korea do so at that their own peril".

"After 25 years of failed bipartisan attempts to bribe the North Koreans into ending their nuclear pursuit, we realized that we have to stop the revenue streams that support it", she said in an address to the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation did not think much of the new steps.

China is said to account for about 90 percent of North Korea's external trade and be its main access point to the global financial system.

But North Korean ships have continued to export coal and make ship-to-ship transfers of imported oil and petroleum products in spite of prohibitions set by the United Nations sanctions.


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