US prepares high-seas crackdown on N. Korea sanctions evaders

Feb 25, 2018, 02:05
US prepares high-seas crackdown on N. Korea sanctions evaders

Trump, who has vowed to use force if necessary to prevent North Korea acquiring a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the US mainland, warned that if sanctions don't work, the USA would move to "phase two" in its pressure campaign against Pyongyang. The measures target one individual, 27 entities and 28 vessels, located or registered in several locations: North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and Comoros, the Treasury Department said.

"Today's actions will significantly hinder North Korea's ability to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and limit the regime's ability to ship goods through worldwide waters", Mnuchin said. "We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before".

Trump in his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference said he hoped "something positive" will come out of the latest round of tough sanctions.

Treasury, along with the State Department and US Coast Guard, also warned the public of significant sanctions they could face if they help to enable any shipments to goods to and from North Korea in an advisory.

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China exported barely any fuel to North Korea in January, data showed on Saturday (Feb 24), deepening months-long cuts in trade with its isolated neighbour amid growing tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programme.

The Trump administration escalated pressure on North Korea Friday by slapping sanctions on scores of companies and ships accused of illicit trading with the pariah nation.

"There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business", said a senior administration official.

While these sanctions exclusively focus on "illicit maritime activity", administration officials made it clear that they are part of the maximum pressure campaign aimed at denuclearization.

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The strategy calls for closer tracking and possible seizure of ships suspected of carrying banned weapons components and other prohibited cargo to or from North Korea, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We are ramping up the pressure on the North Korean regime, and we're going to use every tool at our disposal, including working with our allies and through the U.N., to increase the pressure until North Korea reverses course", U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement. "She had dinner with President Moon and had a private discussion in advance about this occurring and this has been an interagency process".

South Korea's Presidential Blue House said that there were no official opportunities for the U.S. and North Korean officials to meet, suggesting that a run-in between Pyongyang's delegation and Ivanka Trump was unlikely.

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