About the Author
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has imposed new sanctions against 16 individuals, nine entities, and six vessels in response to North Korea’s ongoing pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and violations of existing UN resolutions, a press release announced on Wednesday.
Among the individuals designated, 10 of the 16 were identified as North Korean representatives of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation – an entity already sanctioned by both the UN and U.S. for its support for Pyongyang’s WMD programmes and involvement in military-related sales.
“Treasury continues to systematically target individuals and entities financing the Kim regime and its weapons programs, including officials complicit in North Korean sanctions evasion schemes,” the Secretary of the Treasury – Steven T. Mnuchin – was quoted as saying regarding the actions taken by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions, the U.S. government is targeting illicit actors in China, Russia, and elsewhere who are working on behalf of North Korean financial networks, and calling for their expulsion from the territories where they reside,” he added.
Out of the 10 representatives affiliated with Ryonbong, seven were based in the Chinese cities of Dandong, Ji’an, Tumen, and Linjiang. Three were also based in the Russian cities of Nakhodka and Vladivostok while the remaining individual was based in Abkhazia, Georgia.
OFAC, in its explanation of the sanctions, identified key activities conducted by several of these North Korean individuals. This included – Ri Tok Jin – who “relayed offers from China-based companies to North Korean arms proliferators.”
Kim Kyong Hak was identified by OFAC as being involved in purchasing hazardous chemicals in 2016, Kim Ho Kyu was both a Ryonbong representative and the Vice Consul of the North Korean consulate in Nakhodka, and Pak Tong Sok was said to have arranged for the deployment of North Korean laborers to Georgia in August last year.
OFAC said this would likely be in violation of UNSC resolution 2371, adopted on August 5, 2017, which decided “that all Member States shall not exceed on any date after the date of adoption of this resolution the total number of work authorizations for DPRK nationals provided in their jurisdictions at the time of the adoption of this resolution.”
The locations of individuals operating for a long sanctioned entity and known proliferator will raise further questions about China’s and Russia’s will to implement UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
“Ryonbong was designated by the UN in 2009 and China, Russia, and Georgia should have restricted the activities of this proliferation entity in the last nine years,” Anthony Ruggiero, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told NK News on Wednesday.
“Treasury’s action against these representatives is important and clarifies that countries need to stop working with North Korean representatives overseas,” he added.
Out of the remaining six individuals sanctioned, five of them were identified as being based in the Chinese cities of Dalian, Shenyang and Zhuhai with the sixth individual based in Vladivostok, Russia.
These individuals were all identified as representatives of North Korean banks, the majority of them already sanctioned by both the UN and U.S. including the Daesong Bank, Korea United Development Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank.
A representative from the Kumgang Group Bank – already sanctioned by the U.S. – was also designated. According to OFAC three of the China based bank representatives were able to access the financial system and held bank accounts and affiliations with companies.
Two of the nine entities sanctioned – Beijing Chengzing Trading Co. Ltd and Dandong Jinxiang Trade Co., Ltd – were also based in China.
According to OFAC, between January 1, 2013 and June 1, 2017 both of these companies exported over 68 million U.S. dollars worth of goods to the DPRK and imported more than 19 million dollars from the country. OFAC also said that Beijing Chengxing had sold two tons of high purity metals to an entity subordiante to Ryonbong.
“Dandong Jinxiang Trade Co., Ltd. reportedly conducted trade with UN- and U.S.-designated Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, also known as Korea Kuryonggang Trading Corporation, which is subordinate to the UN- and U.S.-designated Second Academy of Natural Sciences, an entity involved in North Korea’s WMD and missile programs,” the press release read.
“In August 2015, Dandong Jinxiang Trade Co., Ltd. reportedly also exported over half a million dollars’ worth of used computers to North Korea,” it added.
“The sanctions against Chinese companies continue the Trump administration’s efforts last year, but the U.S. should target Chinese banks and additional firms to force Beijing to stop Chinese nationals from facilitating North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” Ruggiero said.
A North Korean electornics company – Hana Electronics JVC was also designated. The company was a well-known joint venture between North Korea’s Hana electronics company and the foreign-owned Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd, however “as a result of irreconcilable differences” Phoenix Commercial Ventures announced the end of its relationship in the joint venture in 2015.
OFAC also desingated several shipping companies including Gooryong Shipping Co Ltd, Hwasong Shipping Co Ltd, Korea Kumunsan Shipping Co, Korea Marine & Industrial Trdg, and CK International Ltd. CK international is registered in Hong Kong while Gooryong Shipping has a registered address in Bangkok, Thailand.
“CK International Ltd is the registered owner of the North Korea-flagged general cargo ship UL JI BONG 6, which on-loaded coal at the port of Wonsan, North Korea and delivered the coal to Kholmsk, Russia, on September 5, 2017.,” OFAC said.
The Ul Ji Bong 6 and five other vessels were also designated as was North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry, which handles crude oil for North Korea amid increasing restrictions on fuel transfers to the DPRK stemming from UNSC resolutions.