Biden imposes first sanctions on North Korean weapons program after missile tests
By David Brunnstrom and Chris Gallagher
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration imposed its first sanctions on North Korean weapons programs on Wednesday following a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
The sanctions targeted six North Koreans, a Russian and a Russian company that Washington said was responsible for sourcing programs from Russia and China.
The US Treasury said the measures were aimed both at preventing the advancement of North Korea’s programs and at hampering its attempts to proliferate weapons technology.
The United States has also proposed that five of those people also be blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council, which would require a consensual agreement from the 15-member North Korea sanctions committee.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang to persuade it to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles since taking office in January last year.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States remained committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.
“What we have seen over the past few days … only underscores our belief that if we are to make progress, we will have to engage in this dialogue,” he told a regular press briefing.
The Treasury Department said the sanctions followed six North Korean ballistic missile launches since September, each violating UN Security Council resolutions.
Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the measures were directed at “North Korea’s continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for manufacturing. ‘weapons’.
North Korea’s latest launches are “further evidence that it continues to advance banned programs despite calls from the international community for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said in a statement.
He said the State Department had designated Russia-based North Korean Choe Myong Hyon, Russian national Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and Russian company Parsek LLC for “activities or transactions that materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of destruction.” mass or their vectors”. ”
He said Choe Myong Hyon, a Vladivostok-based representative of North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), had worked to procure telecommunications-related equipment from Russia.
Four China-based North Korean representatives of organizations subordinate to SANS – Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol – and another Russia-based North Korean, O Yong Ho, were also targeted.
Sim Kwang Sok, based in Dalian, had worked to procure steel alloys and Kim Song Hun, who was based in Shenyang, software and chemicals, the Treasury said.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that between at least 2016 and 2021, O Yong Ho worked with Parsek LLC and Alar, the company’s director of business development, to procure several assets with ballistic missile applications including Kevlar yarn, aramid fiber, aviation oil, ball bearings and precision milling machines.
ROCKET FUEL BLENDS
Blinken said Alar also provided O Yong Ho with instructions for creating solid rocket fuel mixtures.
“The supply and supply relationship between O Yong Ho, Roman Anatolyevich Alar and Parsek LLC is a key source of missile-applicable goods and technology for the DPRK’s missile program,” its statement said.
He also said that O Yong Ho had worked to source items such as aramid fiber, stainless steel tubing and ball bearings from “third countries” which he did not name.
The North Korean mission to the UN, the Russian and Chinese embassies in Washington and the Russian firm did not respond to requests for comment.
North Korean media said leader Kim Jong Un observed the test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the second in less than a week after promising in a New Year speech to bolster the military with advanced technology. point.
Tuesday’s test came hours after the US mission to the United Nations, joined by Albania, France, Ireland, Japan and the UK, condemned last week’s launch and called on the UN States to meet their sanctions obligations.
UN resolutions ban North Korean ballistic and nuclear missile testing and impose sanctions.
Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert from the former Trump administration who failed to persuade Kim to roll back his nuclear program despite an unprecedented pledge, called the new sanctions a “good start.”
However, he said the Biden administration had authorized a reversal of sanctions pressure and added, “Biden must pursue designations to increase pressure on the Kim regime.”
Price did not respond when asked why no Chinese individuals or entities were being targeted, or more specifically when asked if China and Russia were doing enough to enforce the sanctions, but pointed out the important that all UN states do this, while adding: “Obviously we haven’t seen all that. »
Wednesday’s actions freeze all U.S.-related assets of the targeted individuals and prohibit any dealings with them.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller and Grant McCool)