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US targets Chinese bank, shipping firm, two individuals over North Korea

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-06-2017 Toluse Olorunnipa

Washington: The Trump administration took steps on Thursday to penalize a Chinese bank, a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese citizens in an attempt to cut off North Korea’s access to the international financial system.

The punitive measures ratchet up pressure the US is applying on North Korea to halt its nuclear program by targeted Chinese entities that the administration said enable Kim Jong Un’s regime. President Donald Trump has been leaning on China to use its influence as North Korea’s main trading partner but has expressed some frustration recently with a lack of progress.

“We are in no way targeting China with these actions,” treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a briefing. “We are committed to targeting North Korea’s external enablers” and increasing pressure on the regime until it ends its nuclear and ballistic-missile program.

The US is moving to cut off the Bank of Dandong from the international financial system by preventing US institutions from maintaining accounts for or on its behalf. The bank has served as “a conduit for North Korea to access US and international financial systems,” helping facilitate transactions for companies involved in the country’s weapons programs, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Calls to Bank of Dandong’s board office went unanswered. The lender, which operates 101 outlets in northeastern China, reported ¥78.3 billion of assets ($11.6 billion) by the end of March. Its home city of Dandong faces the North Korean city of Sinuiju over the Yalu River, which demarcates the border between the two countries. A number of specially permissioned North Koreans are allowed to work in Dandong.

Mnuchin said cutting off the flow of money was “very effective” in bringing Iran to the negotiating table and the US is seeking to do the same with North Korea.

Shipping company

Sanctions were imposed on Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which ships coal and steel between China and North Korea, freezing any property or assets in the US and prohibiting any US citizen from doing business with the company.

The sanctions also hit two Chinese citizens, Sun Wei and Long Hong Ri, who have worked to help North Korea evade sanctions by facilitating financial transactions, according to the Treasury Department.

Mnuchin said the US would continue to look at other penalties that can be imposed on North Korea and that the topic will be on the agenda when Trump meets with other leaders of major economic powers at the Group of 20 summit next week in Germany.

Trump said earlier this month that China’s efforts to contain North Korea had been unsuccessful.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” Trump tweeted on 20 June. “At least I know China tried!

The comment came shortly after the death of Otto Warmbier, a US citizen who was detained in North Korea for more than a year and returned to his parents in a coma.

“I don’t think the president is giving up in any sense” on working with Chinese, Mnuchin said. Bloomberg

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