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Toughest ever sanctions on NKorea? Not likely

Toughest ever sanctions on NKorea? Not likely

In a statement on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. is "aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea's behalf".

The new penalties target 27 shipping companies, 28 vessels and one individual from several different countries.

Trump was supposed to announce the sanctions himself in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a major conservative summit, Friday morning, with the administration touting it as a major announcement.

These sanctions come after ever-mounting tensions with the DPRK and while senior advisor Ivanka Trump leads a delegation at the Winter Olympic closing ceremonies in Pyongchang, South Korea.

"Under current hard circumstances, we have made a decision to focus on whether peace on the Korean peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations can be derived from dialogue with (the visiting North Korean officials), not on their past or who they are", said Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun.

When the law went into effect earlier this year with no announcement of new sanctions, President Donald Trump was roundly criticized for not punishing Moscow and was accused of being soft on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The South Korean president said South Korea can not acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear state and talks with the North on denuclearisation and improving inter-Korean relations must go hand in hand, Moon said, cited by his spokesman Yoon Young-chan.

The announcement named nine worldwide shipping companies and nine of their vessels, including some based or flagged in China, the Comoros, and Panama.

The sanctions target ships, companies and one individual involved in schemes created to evade already-existing sanctions on illicit cargo, including fuel. The sanctions are targeted at sources of fuel and cash for the North.

The point of these sanctions, an official said, is not just to punish the rouge nation, but to raise "the cost of doing business with North Korea" for other countries.

On top of the designations, the administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, issued a shipping advisory alerting companies of the sanctions risks associated with the transfer of goods to and from North Korea.

While these sanctions exclusively focus on "elicit maritime activity", administration officials made it clear that they are part of the maximum pressure campaign aimed at denuclearization. "So we'll see", Trump asserted during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Officials said the North Koreans hide the identity of their ships by painting over names and disabling homing beacons created to help other ships avoid collisions on the water.

He said close cooperation between the US and South Korea is important for the talks. But the Treasury Department did not give an overall figure for how much revenue the North would be deprived of because of the latest actions, other than to say that nine vessels of newly blacklisted foreign vessels "are capable of carrying over $5.5 million worth of coal at a time".


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