Sanctions target N.Korea's weapons program

·2-min read

The United States has imposed sanctions on two Russian banks, a North Korean company and a person it accuses of supporting North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program, increasing pressure on Pyongyang over its renewed ballistic missile launches.

The latest move came a day after China and Russia vetoed a US-led push to impose more United Nations sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches, publicly splitting the UN Security Council for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006.

The vetoes came despite what the United States says was a sixth test of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea this year, amid signs Pyongyang is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement it had targeted Air Koryo Trading as well as Russian financial institutions the Far Eastern Bank and Bank Sputnik for contributing to procurement and revenue generation for North Korean organisations.

Washington also designated Jong Yong-nam, a Belarus-based representative of an organisation subordinate to the North Korea Second Academy of Natural Sciences, who Washington said has supported North Korean groups linked to the development of ballistic missiles.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The United States will continue to implement and enforce existing sanctions while urging the DPRK (North Korea) to return to a diplomatic path and abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles," the Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

China has been urging the US to take action - including lifting some unilateral sanctions - to entice Pyongyang to resume talks stalled since 2019, after three failed summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US president Donald Trump.

The United States has said Pyongyang should not be rewarded.

Late on Friday, top diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the United States issued a joint statement saying North Korea had "significantly increased the pace and scale of its ballistic missile launches since September 2021".

In the statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi urged Pyongyang to "return to negotiations".

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