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US blacklists North Korean for supporting nuclear program

The US Treasury Department on Monday slapped a sanction on a North Korean man for allegedly evading trade restrictions by importing and exporting goods to support the regime’s weapons program.

The move came amid growing skepticism over the US president’s North Korea policy, with last week’s short-range ballistic missiles tests by the North and a delay in resumption of denuclearization talks. 


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the "Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act" at the White House in Washington D.C., Monday. (Xinhua-Yonhap)

Kim Su-il, who works in Vietnam, was blacklisted by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, as he was found to be an employee of the Munitions Industry Department, an affiliate of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

“Treasury continues to enforce existing sanctions against those who violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and evade US sanctions on North Korea’s unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a press release. “Kim Su-il has violated UNSCRs and supports North Korea’s weapons program.”

As of early 2019, Kim was responsible for exporting anthracite coal, titanium ore concentrate, and other North Korean domestic products; importing and exporting other goods, including raw materials, to and from North Korea; and ship chartering.

“This trade activity earned foreign currency for the North Korean regime,” the department said.

This is the first time in nine months that the US Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on a person, not on a company, under the 2015 Executive Order 13687, on the grounds of assisting North Korea’s missile programs. A North Korean diplomat was sanctioned in October last year in connection to North Korea’s missile program.

In December, three North Korean officials -- Jong Kyong-thaek, Choe Ryong-hae and Pak Kwong-ho -- were blacklisted under the executive order on the grounds of human rights abuses for censoring and restricting access to information.

The latest designation came five days after Pyongyang test-fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, which prompted condemnation by Japan and Germany for violating UNSC sanctions.

While the designation appears to be a warning to North Korea, it is also aimed at staving off criticism from US lawmakers and hard-line experts concerning US President Donald Trump’s policy on North Korea’s denuclearization, according to Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy.

“I would say the domestic political situation played a factor in the decision to add a person to a sanctions list for the people calling for stronger action against North Korea,” he said.

On Friday, Trump said he was not upset by North Korea’s missile lunches while touting his good relationship with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un. “We’ll see what happens, but they are short-range missiles and many people have those missiles.”

Trump and Kim agreed to form teams for working-level talks in two to three weeks’ time during their meeting at the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas on June 30. The talks have not resumed yet.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that he was hopeful working-level talks would resume “very soon.”

Pompeo also said he hopes for “creative solutions to unlocking” the current impasse, which began after a no-deal summit in Hanoi in late February.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement, as Washington rejected lifting sanctions in exchange for dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear complex at Yongbyon.

Stressing that UN sanctions against North Korea are collective actions taken by every country, not just the US, he said, “We are mindful that we are the steward for enforcing those.”

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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