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US punishes Chinese, Russian firms for helping North Korea violate sanctions

The Hyundai Drive container ship. (Pixabay/Released)
August 16, 2018

North Korea faces consequences this week due to their lack of progress in the denuclearization process – as do Russian and Chinese shippers who were helping North Korea violate sanctions.

The Trump Administration imposed economic consequences on three shipping companies who allegedly aided North Korea in evading sanctions by re-routing shipments through ports in China and Russia, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The companies – based in China, Russia and Singapore – received sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department that block their U.S.-based assets and prohibit Americans from conducting business with them.

A statement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Treasury will continue to implement existing sanctions on North Korea, and will take action to block and designate companies, ports and vessels that facilitate illicit shipments and provide revenue streams to [North Korea].”

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“Consequences for violating these sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” the statement added.

The sanctioned companies include: “China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co. and its Singapore-based affiliate, SINSMS Ltd., along with Russia’s Profinet Ltd. and its director general,” the AP said.

The Chinese and Singaporean companies allegedly falsified shipping documents for the exportation of alcohol and tobacco goods.

As a result of North Korea’s commitment to denuclearize made between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the U.S. has been continuing to work with North Korea to comply with sanctions and denuclearize.

International economic sanctions continue against North Korea while the pressure remains steady in urging denuclearization.

In the two months after the Trump-Kim summit, North Korea has made little demonstrable progress in denuclearization. Although satellite imagery showed one missile facility undergoing dismantlement, U.S. officials observed a North Korean facility increasing its nuclear weapons fuel production.

Last month, North Korea also made a gesture of goodwill when it returned the remains of what are believed to be 55 U.S. troops who were killed in the Korean War.

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However, North Korea continues to defy the mutual agreement, refuses U.S. proposals establishing a timeline for denuclearization, and continues to stall or challenge negotiations. North Korean officials argue that they must have relief from sanctions to move forward in the denuclearization discussions.

The Trump Administration maintains that sanctions against North Korea will not be lifted until it can verify complete denuclearization.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has led the denuclearization talks with North Korea, having met several times with officials. He has reiterated that trust-building measures are underway, but “complete and verifiable denuclearization” remains the end goal that must be achieved before sanctions relief.

Pompeo spoke with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in inter-Korean talks. South Korea has also been urging North Korea to comply with sanctions and the denuclearization agreement.

After the meeting, he tweeted: “I spoke with Foreign Minister Kang about the Inter-Korean talks held on Monday. The U.S. and the #ROK remain in close cooperation to ensure the final, fully verified denuclearization of the #DPRK. We believe progress can be made.”

It’s unclear whether the latest sanctions will encourage North Korea’s compliance, or fuel their resistance.