U.S. sanctions North Koreans it links to weapons, financial networks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday sanctioned 11 North Koreans and one North Korean company for their links to the country’s weapons programs, banks and commodities trade, the U.S. Treasury said.

It said the people were working as agents of North Korea’s government in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cuba to provide financial support or help procure weapons for previously sanctioned companies.

“Today’s sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the Government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “I urge our partners and allies to take similar measures to cut off its funding.”

Friday’s actions by the administration of President Donald Trump do not represent a major ramp-up in North Korea sanctions and were issued under authorities established by former presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Two North Koreans based in China and one North Korean based in Cuba were blacklisted for ties to Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, a previously sanctioned company that “specializes in acquisition for North Korean defense industries and support to Pyongyang’s military-related sales,” the statement said.

Another worked for a North Korean trading company in Dalian, China, the U.S. Treasury said.

It said six North Koreans based in Vietnam, China and Russia were sanctioned for their ties to North Korean banks.

One person on the sanctioned list worked as a North Korean government official who was trying to establish a cargo shipping route between North Korea and Vietnam, Treasury said.

The U.S. measures on Friday block any property those on the sanctions list may have in the United States and bar Americans from dealing with them.

The Trump administration is considering sweeping sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system in order to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threat, as well as increased pressure on Chinese banks and firms that do business with North Korea. The administration is conducting a broad review of North Korea policy, expected to be completed in coming weeks.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; editing by Grant McCool