WASHINGTON The United States slapped economic sanctions on Thursday on two North Korean bank officials and a Hong Kong trading company that it accused of supporting Pyongyang's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. move was linked to sanctions imposed by the United Nations against North Korea on Wednesday, which prompted an immediate threat by North Korea to boost its military and nuclear capabilities.
The U.N. action condemned North Korea's December rocket launch and expanded existing sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the two men worked for North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank (TCB). The company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading Ltd, was separately blacklisted by the United Nations on Wednesday.
Leader is an agent for KOMID, a North Korean mining and trading company that was sanctioned in 2009 and is the country's main arms dealer, the United Nations said.
"Our actions today target two North Korean entities, Tanchon Commercial Bank and KOMID, that are part of the web of banks, front companies and government agencies that support North Korea's continued proliferation activities," said David Cohen, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The action bans contact between any U.S. citizen and Ra Ky'ong-Su, TCB representative to Beijing, and Kim Kwang-Il, TCB deputy representative to Beijing, and freezes their assets. It also freezes the assets of, and bans contacts with, Leader.
"By continuing to expose these entities, and the individuals who assist them, we degrade North Korea's ability to use the international financial system for its illicit purpose," Cohen said in a statement.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Xavier Briand and Bernadette Baum)