U.S. sanctions two China-based shippers over North Korea evasions

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday announced sanctions on two China-based shipping companies it says helped North Korea evade U.S. and international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. Treasury also issued an updated advisory that listed 67 vessels that have engaged in illicit transfers of refined petroleum with North Korean tankers or were believed to have exported North Korean coal.

The Treasury Department identified the sanctioned firms as Dalian Haibo International Freight Co. Ltd and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co. Ltd, both based in China.

The U.S. announcement comes weeks after a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down last month over conflicting demands by North Korea for sanctions relief and from the U.S. side for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

The United States has led international efforts to press North Korea through sanctions to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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

“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.”

Earlier this week, two senior U.S. senators called for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of U.S. sanctions designations on North Korea, saying there had been a marked decline in the past year of U.S. engagement with Pyongyang.

They pointed to a 2019 U.N. report which found that North Korea had continued to defy U.N. sanctions with a massive increase in smuggling of petroleum products and coal and violation of bans on arms sales.

U.S.-North Korea engagement has appeared to be in limbo since last month’s summit breakdown, although Washington has said it aims to reengage with Kim.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 4 he was hopeful he could send a team to North Korea “in the next couple of weeks,” but there has been no sign of direct engagement since the Feb. 27-28 summit.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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