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US sanctions two more North Korean officials for ballistic missile program

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin looks on before discussing the Federal budget in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Feb. 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Mnuchin spoke Sunday about new sanctions against North Korean officials. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Trump administration announced sanctions Tuesday against two more North Korean officials for their alleged role in Pyongyang’s expanding ballistic missiles program.

The Treasury Department “is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

The nuclear-armed country tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last month that U.S. officials said appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, a significant milestone in the country’s growing arsenal.

Treasury identified the two North Korean officials as Kim Jong Sik, who “reportedly is a key figure” in the ballistic missile program and who led efforts to switch them from liquid to solid fuel. Using solid fuel makes missiles easier to hide before launch.

Treasury also sanctioned Ri Pyong Chol, who it said was “reported to be a key official” in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The sanctions block banks, companies and individuals from doing any business with the targeted officials. It also allows the U.S. government to freeze any American assets owned by the officials, should they exist.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to add more sanctions on North Korea, its third round this year. The new measures order North Koreans working abroad to return home within two years, and ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to the country.

In a statement published Sunday by the state-run KCNA news agency, the foreign ministry denounced the new U.N. sanctions as “an act of war.”

“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ‘resolution,’” it said.

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© 2017 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.