US blacklists Chinese bank, company and two nationals to pressure Beijing to rein in Pyongyang
The US Treasury Department said the Bank of Dandong is a ‘primary money-laundering concern’ for North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes
The US will impose unilateral sanctions on one Chinese bank, two individuals and one shipping company over their alleged “illicit financing” and “continued support” of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Thursday at the White House.
The US Treasury has identified the Bank of Dandong “to be a foreign financial institution of primary money-laundering concern”, serving as “a gateway for North Korea to access the US and international financial systems – facilitating millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes”, Mnuchin said.
The Treasury’s move will “require US banks to ensure that the Bank of Dandong does not access the US financial system directly or indirectly through other foreign banks,” Mnuchin said.
The two Chinese nationals are Wei Sun, who is being sanctioned for links to the Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Hong Ri Li, for his links to North Korean banking executive Song-hyok Ri. The sanctions also target the Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co Limited of Dalian, China, according to a statement released by the Treasury.
The move came on the same day as US President Trump’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House, with the agenda including a “new approach” to rein in North Korea, according to Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
McMaster said yesterday at a conference in Washington that “the President has directed us…to prepare a range of options, including a military option, which nobody wants to take.”
The sanctions also come one week after the US and China failed to announce a joint action plan to freeze North Korea’s nuclear programme after their first Diplomacy and Security Dialogue in Washington, but reached a consensus on not doing business with any UN-designated North Korean entities.
The Trump administration is coming under pressure from lawmakers to find ways to rein in North Korea. Washington’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently fielded questions from members of the US House foreign relations committee on the effectiveness of US efforts to influence Haley’s UN counterparts on a North Korea strategy. Some lawmakers accused China of channelling hard currency to Pyongyang.
The US House foreign affairs committee chairman Ed Royce hailed the sanctions on Thursday as “a big step”.
“The administration is right to target any around the world who act as financial lifelines to Kim Jong-un, and to give them a clear choice: You can do business with North Korea or with the US, but not both,” said Royce in a statement.