The US Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on three North Korean officials linked to the country’s weapons of mass destruction program.
The sanctions follow a spate of missile launches from Pyongyang, including an intercontinental ballistic missile launch on November 18 – its eighth ICBM launch this year.
“Treasury, in close trilateral coordination with the Republic of Korea and Japan, is taking action against officials who have a leading role in the DPRK’s illicit weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” said Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s deputy director of terrorism and financial intelligence. Release using the abbreviation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Recent releases demonstrate the need for all countries to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions that prevent the DPRK from obtaining the technologies, materials and revenue needed to develop Pyongyang’s prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile capabilities.”
The US sanctions target three officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), John Il Ho, Yu Jin and Kim Su Gil.
“The European Union (EU) designated all three earlier this year, noting that John and Yu played a role in the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction programs and participated in multiple ballistic missile launches,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a separate statement. And Kim was responsible for the implementation of WPK decisions regarding the development of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs of the DPRK.
“These steps also underscore our continued determination to promote accountability in response to the speed, scale and magnitude of Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launches,” Blinken said.
In a separate announcement on Friday, South Korea said it would impose independent sanctions against eight North Korean individuals and seven organizations linked to Pyongyang’s weapons development program and sanctions evasion.
“Our government will continue to strengthen cooperation with relevant countries to ensure a unified and strong response of the international community to North Korea’s severe provocations, including additional sanctions,” South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
US officials have repeatedly assessed North Korea’s missile launches as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to international peace and stability.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country aims to have the “world’s most powerful” nuclear force as he cheered on dozens of soldiers taking part in the launch of a new ballistic missile on Saturday.
“We know that North Korea has indicated that they are likely to conduct another nuclear test, which would be very destabilizing,” Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.
“I think you have seen that the United States, as well as other countries in the region, the Republic of Korea and Japan, have emphasized that there will be consequences. Again, I won’t get into that. But we would hope that North Korea will not engage in such destabilizing activities.”
In early November, a senior US administration official told CNN that the Biden administration had repeatedly tried to reach out directly to North Korea, but Pyongyang had “not given a reasonable response.”
Engagement attempts were made through various means, including private two-way channels, third parties and public messaging, the official said.
The official declined to elaborate, citing the sensitivity of the information, but said Pyongyang’s actions “made it clear that they are not interested in diplomacy.”
The administration is “very confident” that the messages are being sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “for a number of reasons, including public reference to why they refuse to talk to us. “said the official.
“It’s not something we’re wondering, hey, is our message getting through or are they over the top? We are very confident because we have seen Kim Jong Un refer to our dialogue and diplomacy efforts,” they added.
The official would not say whether there was a scenario in which the US would end the search for dialogue without a precondition.
“We believe very fundamentally that it’s extremely important to have a dialogue and we need to find ways to understand and get them to tell us what they’re looking for and we need to be able to tell them and see what we’re looking for. if there are ways forward,” the official said. “It’s ultimately their decision not to start the process.”