The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Tuesday issued new sanctions targeting North Korea’s foreign trading partners in China, the North’s shipping industry and a company involved in facilitating DPRK laborers overseas.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added one individual, 13 companies, and 20 vessels to its list of designations under Executive Orders 13810 and 13722 – which target the North’s transport sector and its exportation of foreign workers.
“These designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release accompanying the designations.
“We are also sanctioning the shipping and transportation companies, and their vessels, that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive maneuvers.”
The new designations target numerous Chinese companies based in Dandong – a border city in the country’s northeast – for their role in shipping goods worth over $650 million, while also importing DPRK metals and minerals valued at $100 million.
OFAC also targeted a Chinese national called Sun Sidong and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial for exporting goods worth more than $28 million to the DPRK over the course of several years.
According to OFAC, the shipments included “motor vehicles, electrical machinery, radio navigational items, aluminum, iron, pipes, and items associated with nuclear reactors.”
Sun Sidong’s involvement with North Korea was first publicised by a report from the Washington-based C4ADS, which concluded that a relatively small number of operators and companies accounted for a relatively large percentage of trade between the two counties.
Later investigations also found the Chinese national also owned property in the United States worth over $1.3 million.
“These companies will have a tough time continuing operations as even Chinese banks will increase scrutiny of their transactions, if not completely cut them off,” Anthony Ruggiero, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told NK News.
“These actions continue the narrative on the problem China has in Dandong and Dalian, something Treasury highlighted in its advisory where it noted the activities of Chinese banks and companies working with North Korea.”
The new OFAC measures also targeted 20 North Korean vessels and their associated DPRK-based owners, as well as two government ministries involved in North Korean shipping.
The vessels all have North Korean flags and for the most part appear relatively active, though according to vessel tracking Marine Traffic site one of the vessels is decommissioned and several others have never appeared on international tracking networks.
“OFAC identified the Maritime Administration of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Ministry of Land and Maritime Transportation of the DPRK as agencies, instrumentalities, or controlled entities of the Government of North Korea,” the press release reads.
According to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE), the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport oversaw Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) a DPRK weapon smuggler that was sanctioned by both the U.S. and UN and 2014.
A recent mid-year PoE report also claimed the North’s Maritime Administration was complicit in helping the country’s fleet of vessels evade UN sanctions.
“The Maritime Administration Bureau has served as a sanctions evasion enabler for the DPRK’s maritime fleet as documented through numerous incidents,” the report reads, adding how the organization helped falsify the documents and unique identifiers of vessels on the UN’s blacklist.
Unusually, the OFAC designation also included aerial photography of a North Korean vessel apparently attempting to transfer cargo while at sea.
“The images below were taken on October 19, 2017, and they depict a recent attempt by Korea Kumbyol Trading Company’s vessel Rye Song Gang 1 to conduct a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, in an effort to evade sanctions,” the press release adds.
The ship identified in the image is a North Korean oil tanker which has not broadcast any positional information since June 10. Prior to its disappearance, the tanker was part of a group of fuel transporters which made regular visits to oil facilities in the Russian Far East.
OFAC’s press release indicates that trade might be continuing, though with DPRK vessels staying out of foreign ports and keeping their location transponders switched off, a practice that would breach both UN resolutions and maritime laws.
Lastly, the Treasury Department designated a DPRK company called the Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation for facilitating the DPRK’s use of its laborer abroad.
“(The company has) been responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea,” the press release reads.
“Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation has operated in China, Russia, Cambodia, and Poland.”
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Featured Image: US Treasury by KJGarbutt on 2011-11-20 20:54:20