[Writer's Choice] United States Imposes Sanctions on Chinese Companies for Doing Business with North Korea

Jay Yim, March 22, 2019, 5:34 p.m.

On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies who conducted business with North Korea in order to evade sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

The Treasury Department since a US-North Korean summit collapse last month issued an updated advisory which named 67 vessels that claimed to have engaged in illegal transfers of purified petroleum with North Korean tankers or were believed to have exported North Korean coal.

Futhermore, the department identified the newly sanctioned companies as Dalian Haibo International Freight Co Ltd and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co Ltd. The two firms were claimed to have helped North Korea evade their nuclear sanctions.

These new sanctions prohibits US dealings with the two firms and freezes any assets they have in the country.

Washington made an announcement about the measures three weeks after the second summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, which broke down after no agreement could be made by both sides when North Korea demanded relief from sanctions for nuclear weapons.

The US has made various international efforts to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up their nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

"The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

He added, "Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk."

A senior US official said that the recent sanctions showed that China leaked confidential information in North Korea sanctions enforcement. Beijing was, however, mostly abiding by the UN resolutions.

Financial as well as shipping companies were risking US action if they were to be convicted of violating sanctions, the official added.

The official insisted that the annoucement on Thursday was meant to maintain sanctions enforcement on North Korea rather than increasing the pressure.

The official said that Trump "has made clear that the door is wide open to continuing the dialogue with North Korea".

Since the Hanoi meeting back in February, US and North Korean engagement has seemed to be halted, despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming that on March 4 he was hopeful to have sent a team to North Korea "in the next couple of weeks".

Washington stated that it plans on re-engaging with Kim Jong Un, but North Korea threatened that it is considering on suspending all talks and is rethinking a freeze on missile and nuclear tests in place since 2017 unless the United States makes comprimises.

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