US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the new sanctions on Tuesday, a day after US President Donald Trump added North Korea to his administration’s blacklist of “state sponsors of terrorism.”
Mnuchin said, “This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.”
Three Chinese companies, namely Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co., and Dandong Hongda Trade Co., faced sanctions as part of the new measures. The US Treasury accused them of having done over $750 million worth of combined trade with North Korea.
The US also blacklisted Chinese investor Sun Sidong and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co. The Washington-based think tank Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) had claimed in June that Sun’s firm was part of an interconnected network of Chinese companies responsible for a vast amount of trade with North Korea.
The fresh measures by Washington reflect the Trump administration’s insistence on hindering trade between China and North Korea, which it has regarded as key to pressing Pyongyang to end its weapons programs.
The new sanctions, according to the report, also target several North Korean companies that send workers to nations such as Russia, Poland, Cambodia, and China. US authorities have said that they intend to cut off the money North Korea earns from the export of labor.‘Targeting ordinary trade’
In addition to targeting sources of North Korea’s weapons technology, the latest sanctions marked the first time Washington sought to directly attack North Korea’s daily consumer trade, said Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security as cited in the report.
“We are sanctioning companies involved in ordinary trade,” Harrell said. “That’s the logical next step of the pressure campaign.”
On Tuesday, and following the re-labeling of Pyongyang as a “state sponsor of terrorism” by Trump, China reiterated the need for dialog to resolve the tensions.
Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that the latest sanctions were part of an effort to further isolate Pyongyang.
She said she did not believe the targeting of more Chinese firms would weaken Beijing’s cooperation in resolving the North Korean issue.
“I don’t think it jeopardizes anything. I think the world has come together on this issue,” she claimed. “We have a good relationship with China. That’s not going to change.”
China is North Korea’s main ally.
Beijing has put forth a “double freeze” approach to resolving the crisis, calling for the US to freeze its annual war games with South Korea in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs.
Reacting to the Tuesday US move, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Beijing opposed unilateral sanctions.
Ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the remarks during his daily press briefing on Wednesday.