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

A missile was launched during what state media reported as a hypersonic missile test at an unknown location in North Korea, Jan. 11, 2022, in this photo released Jan. 12, 2022 by the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed its first sanctions on North Korea’s weapons programs following a string of missile launches by North Korea, including twice since last week.

The sanctions targeted six North Koreans, one Russian and a Russian company that Washington said was responsible for buying goods for the program from Russia and China.

The US Treasury said the steps are aimed at preventing the progress of North Korea’s programs and impeding its attempts to deploy weapons technologies.

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The United States has also proposed that five of these individuals also be blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council, which would need consensus agreement by the organization’s 15-member North Korea Sanctions Committee. Read more

US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang in dialogue to persuade it to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles since taking office in January last year.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States remains committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.

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

The Treasury said the sanctions followed the launches of six North Korean ballistic missiles since September, each in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

South Korea, a US ally that has pushed Washington to support more engagement with North Korea, said it did not believe the move meant the Biden administration had hardened its stance.

“We believe the US action reflects the current US position that implementation of sanctions is also important along with dialogue,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told a news briefing.

The US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said the moves were aimed at “North Korea’s continued use of its representatives abroad to illegally purchase goods to purchase weapons.”

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

It added that the State Department had designated Russia-based North Korean Choi Myung-hyun, Russian Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and Parsek LLC “for activities or transactions that materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery.”

She said Choi Myung-hyun, a representative of North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS) in Vladivostok, had worked to purchase communications-related equipment from Russia.

Four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-affiliated organizations – Sim Kwang-suk, Kim Seung-hoon, Kang Chul-hak, and Byun Kwang-chul – and another North Korean based in Russia, Ho O Yong-ho, were also targeted.

The Treasury said Sim Kwang-suk, headquartered in Dalian, worked to purchase steel ingots, and Kim Sung-hun, who was based in Shenyang, software and chemicals.

In a statement, 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 multiple items using ballistic missile applications, including Kevlar thread and aramid. fibres, aircraft oil, ball bearings and precision milling machines.

Rocket fuel mixtures

Blinken said Alar also provided O Yong Ho with instructions to create a mixture of solid rocket fuel.

“The procurement and supply relationship between U Yong Ho, Roman Anatolyevich Alar and Parsik is a major source of applicable missile goods and technology for the DPRK’s missile program,” his statement said.

It also said O Yong Ho had worked to purchase materials including aramid fibers, stainless steel tubes and ball bearings from “third countries” it did not name.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations, 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 witnessed the test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the second in less than a week after vowing in his New Year address to bolster the military with the latest technology. Read more

Tuesday’s test came hours after the US mission to the United Nations, joined by Albania, France, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom, condemned last week’s missile launch and called on UN countries to honor their sanctions obligations. Read more

UN resolutions ban North Korea’s ballistic missiles and nuclear tests and impose sanctions.

Anthony Ruggiero, the former Trump administration’s sanctions expert who failed to persuade Kim to back down on his nuclear program despite the unprecedented engagement, called the new sanctions a “good start.”

However, he said that the Biden administration had allowed sanctions pressure to be lifted, and added: “Biden needs to continue appointments to increase pressure on the Kim regime.”

Price did not respond when asked why no Chinese individuals or entities had been targeted, or specifically when asked whether China and Russia were doing enough to impose sanctions, but he stressed the importance of all UN countries doing so, adding: “Obviously we haven’t Do it I saw it all.”

Wednesday’s actions freeze any US-related assets of those targeted and ban all dealings with them.

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(Reporting by David Bronstrom and Chris Gallagher) Additional reporting by Simon Lewis, Michelle Nichols and Hyunhye Shin in Seoul; Editing by Jonathan Otis, Howard Guler, Grant McCall and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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