US imposes tougher North Korea rules; 28 ships now sanctioned

The US would be imposing its largest package of sanctions as it continued pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear missile programme, the US administration said on Friday February 23rd.

The US Treasury sanctioned one person, 27 companies and 28 ships.

The US also proposed a list of entities to be blacklisted under separate UN sanctions, a move which it said was “aimed at shutting down North Korea’s illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.”

The sanctions’ targets included shipping and energy firms in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. They were also aimed at ships located, registered or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and the Comoros.

At another briefing, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin stood next to enlarged photos which he said showed December 2017 images of ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other products destined for North Korea. He said he could not rule out the prospect of the US boarding and inspecting North Korean ships. He noted that virtually all shipping currently being used by North Korea was now under sanction and the US government had “issued an advisory alerting the public to the significant sanctions risks to those continuing to enable shipments of goods to and from North Korea.”

Japan supported the new sanctions, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.

Taiwan said it was in touch with the US and would investigate its citizens and entities suspected of helping North Korea. It also called on Taiwan firms and citizens not to break UN sanctions.

In December, the UN approved a US-drafted measure that limited North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil, which the North Korea said amounted to an act of war.