US imposes sanctions on North Koreans, Russian, after missile tests

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WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States on Wednesday (Jan 12) imposed sanctions on six North Koreans, one Russian and a Russian firm it said were responsible for procuring goods from Russia and China for North Korea’s weapons programmes, an action that follows a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.

The US Treasury said the steps aimed to prevent the advancement of North Korea’s weapons programmes and impede its attempts to proliferate weapons technologies.

The sanctions were the first specifically targeting North Korea’s weapons programmes imposed by the Biden administration, which has sought unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang in dialogue to persuade it to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington remained committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.

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

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

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the moves targeted North Korea’s “continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons.”

North Korea’s latest launches were “further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programmes despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearisation,” Nelson said in a statement.

It said the State Department had designated Russia-based North Korean Choe Myong Hyon, Russian national Roman Anatolyevich Alara and the Russian firm Parsek 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), had worked to procure telecommunications-related equipment from Russia.

Four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-subordinate organisations – Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol – and one other North Korean, O Yong Ho, were also targeted.

Sim Kwang Sok, based in Dalian, had worked to procure steel alloys and Kim Song Hun, who was based in Shenyang, software and chemicals, Treasury said.

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