Biden imposes first sanctions on North Korea weapons program after missile tests

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Wednesday (Jan. 12) imposed its first sanctions against North Korea’s weapons programs after a series of North Korean Missile Launches, two of which since last week.

The sanctions targeted six North Koreans, a Russian and a Russian company that Washington says was responsible for purchasing goods for the programs from Russia and China.

The US Treasury Department said the moves were intended both to prevent the advancement of North Korea’s programs and to hinder its efforts to proliferate weapons technologies.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has tried unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang in dialogue to persuade the country to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles since taking office in January last year.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington remains committed to diplomacy with North Korea.

“What we have seen in recent days… only underscores our belief that if we want to make progress, we need to engage in that dialogue,” he told a regular news conference.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions followed the launch of six North Korean ballistic missiles since September, each of which violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the measures targeted North Korea’s “continued use of overseas representatives to illegally obtain goods for weapons”.

North Korea’s latest launches were “additional evidence that it continues to promote banned programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said in a statement.

It said the foreign ministry had identified Russia-based North Korean Choe Myong Hyon, Russian national Roman Anatolyevich Alar and Russian firm Parsek for “activities or transactions that materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery” .

It said Choe Myong Hyon, a Vladivostok-based representative of North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), had been working to buy telecommunications-related equipment from Russia.

Four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS subordinate organizations — Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol — and another Russian-based North Korean, O Yong Ho, were also targeted.

Sim Kwang Sok, based in Dalian, had been working on the procurement of steel alloys and Kim Song Hun, who was based in Shenyang, software and chemicals, Treasury said.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that between at least 2016 and 2021, O Yong Ho had worked with Parsek and Alar, the company’s director of development, to procure multiple goods with ballistic missile applications, including Kevlar wire, aramid fibers, aviation oil, ball bearings and precision milling machines.

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