US Sanctions Hit Russia, China Over North Korea’s Nuclear Program

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U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a different tactic than his predecessor did at trying to get North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons, but thus far, the results have been the same. Some believe his tactics may push North Korean leader Kim Jong-un too far, but now, he has turned his attention elsewhere. Some individuals and businesses in Russia and China now face new US sanctions in connection with the North’s nuclear program.

US sanctions imposed on individuals and firms in China and Russia

In a statement today, the U.S. Treasury said the White House is imposing US sanctions on a number of businesses and individuals in China and Russia who do business with North Korea. Ten entities and six individuals have been hit by the sanctions for their ties with the North’s nuclear program. The Treasury Department alleges that the sanctions entities and individuals aided people who were already sanctioned over Pyongyang’s weapons program.

It’s the same tactic the Trump administration used in June when it imposed US sanctions on a bank in China, one China-based firm, and two Chinese individuals. At that time, the White House was trying to squeeze those providing financing to Pyongyang’s nuclear program. This time, Washington is going after the economic ties that enable North Korea to keep funding the program.

The ultimate goal of these US sanctions is to cut those who would aid Pyongyang despite repeated calls to halt its weapons program. Washington seeks to cut them off from the U.S. financial system, which is especially important because most international transactions are conducted in U.S. dollars.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new sanctions against North Korea earlier this month, and both China and Russia supported those sanctions. Despite China’s support for the measure, it has been a key ally for North Korea, which is why it is widely seen as a linchpin for reining in Pyongyang’s weapons program. Although Beijing has generally sided with the UN, Chinese companies have kept conducting business with the Kim regime.

Sanctions target financing for North Korea

The Treasury Department said the affected individuals and businesses were doing business with North Korea in ways that enabled it to advance its nuclear program. According to The Washington Post, most of those affected by the new sanctions trade coal, oil and mineral resources with North Korea or provide banking services to support those transactions.

Two of the firms that are affected by the new US sanctions arrange for North Korean laborers to erect statues in other countries. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been pushing countries that do business with North Korea to refuse to hire North Korean workers and reduce the country’s diplomatic presence within their borders.

Because overseas labor is a revenue stream for Pyongyang, the U.S. Treasury argues that some of the workers’ income has helped pay for the controversial tests on North Korea’s ballistic missiles. The UN has repeatedly called on Pyongyang to roll back its weapons program. Earlier this month, Trump and Kim engaged in a war of words that kept escalating, leading Trump to declare that the U.S. would rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if it ever makes good on its threats. North Korea finally backed down in the war of words, although the threat remains real.

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