The U.S. Department of the Treasury, under direction from the White House, announced a new series of sanctions being levied against one North Korean organization and 11 individuals with ties to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
According to a press release provided by the Treasury Department, the 11 individuals cited have been working as agents of North Korea in other nations, namely Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. According to the release, these agents have been serving as intermediaries, working to procure financial support and even weapons for companies already on sanction lists.
“Today’s sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
These new sanctions were issued under previously established authorities derived from sanctions set in place by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Three of the North Korean citizens listed on this new series of sanctions were located in China and Cuba, working independently in support of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which had already been blacklisted by the U.S. and other Western nations. The company “specializes in acquisition for North Korean defense industries and support to Pyongyang’s military-related sales,” the statement said.
Six of those listed—working in Vietnam, China, and Russia—are alleged to have ties with banks directly involved in North Korea’s weapons programs. The last of the men on the list was added as part of an effort to stop the establishment of a new cargo shipping route between North Korea and Vietnam.
“These sanctions underscore this administration’s commitment to countering the threat to the United States, to our allies, and to stability on the Korean peninsula and in the wider Asia Pacific region posed by the Kim regime in Pyongyang, and I urge our partners and allies to take similar measures to cut off its funding,” Mnuchin said.
President Trump and his cabinet have been considering laying out dramatic new sanctions on the reclusive state, aimed at cutting its government off entirely from the global financial system—a move that would have a dramatic effect on the nation’s economy. This is effectively the economic equivalent of a nuclear option. Fitting then, that it is being considered one of the few options that could potentially curb Kim Jong-un’s relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems capable of depositing a nuclear payload to enemies anywhere in the world—including the United States.
North Korea’s repeated threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes on U.S. assets, as well as years of posturing, have left many concerned about what could come of the country’s supreme leader finally getting his hands on the tools capable of wiping out thousands, or even millions, of innocent lives in places like South Korea, Japan, and the continental U.S. Although historically Kim’s threats have rung empty, it may have been because he never had the resources, or weapon systems, necessary to follow through with his claims. Until recently, that is.
Intelligence analysts fear that Kim Jong-un may soon have a functioning ICMB, or intercontinental ballistic missile, based on images released by state-owned media outlets of missile structures and nuclear weapons. A number of tests have already proven that North Korea does have ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. military installations in Japan, and although the regime has been plagued by failed missile tests, they have had enough successful ones to make clear that they possess at least some level of strike capability.
The United States recently brokered a deal with South Korea to deploy a new, high-tech THAAD missile defense system in the South Korean-controlled portion of the peninsula, intended to intercept any potential missile launched by Kim Jong-un’s military.
Image courtesy of REUTERS/Jason Lee