U.S. imposes sanctions after series of North Korean missile tests

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed its first sanctions on North Korean weapons programs, following a spate of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.

The sanctions targeted six North Koreans, one Russian and a Russian company who Washington said were responsible for procuring goods for the programs from Russia and China.

The US Treasury Department said the moves were aimed both at preventing further development of North Korea’s programs and at hampering its attempts to spread weapons technology.

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The United States also proposed that five of those individuals be blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council, which would require approval from the body’s 15-member North Korea Sanctions Committee.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has tried unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang in dialogue 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 remains committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.

“What we’ve seen over the past few days … just underscores our belief that we need to have this dialogue if we’re going to make any progress,” he said in a regular news conference.

The Finance Ministry said the sanctions followed six North Korean missile launches since September, each in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the moves target North Korea’s “continued use of overseas agents to illegally procure goods for weapons.”

North Korea’s recent launches are “further evidence that it continues to advance banned programs despite calls from the international community for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said said in a statement.

The State Department has named Russia-based North Korean Choe Myong Hyon, Russian citizen Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and Russian company Parsek LLC for “activities or transactions that have 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), was working to procure telecommunications equipment from Russia.

Four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS affiliates — 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.

Dalian-based Sim Kwang Sok has been working on steel alloy procurement and Shenyang-based Kim Song Hun has been working on software and chemicals, the finance ministry said.

In one Explanation, 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 development, to procure several goods with ballistic missile applications, including Kevlar thread, aramid fibers and aerospace Oil, ball bearings and precision milling machines.

Blinken said Alar also gave instructions to O Yong Ho on how to make solid rocket fuel mixtures.

“The sourcing and supply relationship between O Yong Ho, Roman Anatolyevich Alar and Parsek LLC is a key source of missile-enabled goods and technology for the DPRK’s missile program,” the statement said.

It also said O Yong Ho worked to source items like aramid fibers, stainless steel tubing and ball bearings from “third countries,” which it didn’t name.

North Korea’s UN mission, the Russian and Chinese embassies in Washington and the Russian company 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 he vowed in a New Year’s speech to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology.

Tuesday’s test came hours after the US mission to the United Nations, along with Albania, France, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom, condemned the launch last week and urged UN states to meet sanctions obligations .

UN resolutions ban North Korean missile and nuclear tests and impose sanctions.

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