The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday issued new designations against entities and individuals in China, Russia, Singapore, and Namibia for supporting North Korea’s weapons programs, mineral trade and use of overseas labor.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted companies and individuals which bought coal and minerals from the DPRK, as well as others involved in the country’s oil trade.
Other sanctions were also aimed at North Korean companies and their representatives for continued use of overseas labor in Namibia.
“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release accompanying the designations.
The new measures target several Chinese companies which purchased North Korean minerals in breach of UN resolutions.
One Dandong-based company was sanctioned for purchasing sanctioned vanadium from North Korea, while three other Chinese companies “have sold, supplied, transferred, or purchased coal or metal,” from the DPRK between 2013 and 2016.
The OFAC press release did not say when the vanadium imports happened, though China has not reported buying the sanctioned mineral from North Korea since 2015.
The U.S. Department of Treasury also designated four Russian individuals and two Singapore-based companies for their involvement in the North’s oil trade.
Mikhail Pisklin and Andrey Serbin worked with the sanctioned Daesong Credit Development Bank to purchase fuel oil – a heavy oil used in ships and power plants – on behalf of the DPRK.
Two more Russian individuals were added to OFAC’s list for arranging the purchase of gasoil – a type of diesel – for delivery to North Korea.
The transactions were organized using Singaporean companies, which also attempted to use the “U.S. financial system to send millions of dollars in payments on behalf of North Korea-related transactions.”
Although UN resolutions prohibit the sale of kerosene to North Korea, trade in most oil products is not restricted by the international body. But Washington’s Executive Order 13722 lists the North’s energy industry as a possible candidate for U.S. designations, along with transport, mining and financial services.
A further Russian company and one of its employees were added to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons for procuring metals on behalf of the Korea Tangun Corporation, a sanctioned North Korean company working under the DPRK’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences.
“The sanctions are a message to Beijing and Moscow to end its facilitation of North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” Anthony Ruggiero, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told NK News.
“This is a good step forward but will only work if it is part of a broad pressure campaign that forces companies and individuals to choose between business with North Korea or the United States.”
Lastly, OFAC designated Mansudae Overseas Projects Architectural and Technical Services, its representative in Namibia and the subsidiary of a Chinese company in the country for using DPRK workers abroad to generate foreign revenue.
“The sanctions on Mansudae in Namibia are noteworthy, as they suggest continuing activity of concern in the country, despite repeated assurances to the contrary from Windhoek,” Andrea Berger, a Senior Research Associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NK News.
The U.S. Treasury Department previously issued sanctions against Russian companies on June 1, with Washington signaling that it will increase the risks of doing business with the DPRK.
“Treasury is more aggressively sanctioning firms dealing with North Korea. That aligns with the White House’s favored approach to tackling the North Korea threat, which is to pressure the country’s partners overseas,” Berger added.
Edited by Oliver Hotham