North Korea

US accuses Turkish firm, North Korean diplomat of weapons trading with Pyongyang in violation of sanctions

US sanctions have targeted North Korea’s trade routes in an effort to choke off funding for the weapons programmes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 5:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 6:23am

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions against a Turkish-based company, its top directors, and a North Korean diplomat, accusing them of trading in weapons and luxury goods with Pyongyang in violation of international sanctions.

The latest sanctions come as Washington maintains pressure on Pyongyang to dismantle its missile and nuclear programmes. They target North Korea’s trade routes in an effort to choke off funding for the weapons programmes.

The US Treasury said in a statement that SIA Falcon International Group, which also has a branch in Latvia, would be blacklisted for exporting weapons into or from North Korea.

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It also listed SIA Falcon Chief Executive Huseyin Sahin and its general manager, Erhan Culha, for having “acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly SIA Falcon”.

Additionally, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Ri Song-un, the economic and commercial counsellor at North Korea’s embassy in Mongolia. It said SIA Falcon officials hosted Ri earlier this year in Turkey to negotiate weapons deals with him.

Calls to SIA Falcon’s offices in Istanbul seeking comment went unanswered, and calls to its office in Latvia were met with a pre-recorded message in Arabic.

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“SIA Falcon International Group and individuals acting on its behalf are blatantly attempting to flout long-standing UN sanctions on trade in weapons and luxury goods with North Korea,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The company’s operations span defence, livestock, energy and food products, according to the SIA Falcon website. It described itself as “one of the biggest companies … in the defence industry,” saying it supplied armed services and security forces of more than 30 nations on five continents.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to Pyongyang on Sunday to resume negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on dismantling the country’s missile and nuclear programmes.

Part of the talks will focus on a second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump, possibly later this year.

The two leaders met in Singapore in June, where Kim pledged to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

His actions, however, have fallen short of Washington’s demands for irreversible steps to give up an arsenal that potentially threatens the United States.