August 23, 2017 4:27 am JST

US sanctions Chinese, Russian enterprises over Pyongyang's arms

Treasury Department blames them for contributing to missile and nuclear development

TOMOYUKI KAWAI, Nikkei staff writer

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. has slapped new sanctions on 10 businesses from China, Russia and elsewhere, as well as six individuals, for providing various forms of support to North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Many of the newly sanctioned parties are targeted for trading resources with North Korea. These comprise three Chinese companies involved in the coal trade and the chairman of one of them, three Russians involved in the oil sector, and two Singapore-based companies along the oil supply chain. Coal exports alone bring North Korea more than $1 billion per year, providing ample funding for nuclear and missile development.

A Chinese trading company, a Russian trading house and its director, and a financial services provider with offices in China and Hong Kong are alleged to have supported Pyongyang's weapons programs more directly. Two Namibia-based companies and an executive serving at both have been sanctioned for involvement in sending North Korean laborers abroad.

These parties are now barred from doing business with American companies or individuals and have had all assets in the U.S. frozen.

"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," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a news release.

"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," he said.

President Donald Trump's administration is evidently prepared to ramp up pressure on China to make full use of Beijing's influence over Pyongyang. But this latest round of sanctions could also backfire, heightening Sino-American frictions at a time when North Korean provocations are only intensifying.

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