By Michael Hernandez
The U.S. on Friday imposed what President Donald Trump called the "heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country" against North Korea.
“We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before," Trump told a conservative gathering in Washington. "Hopefully something positive will happen. We will see.”
The economic penalties are aimed at curbing Pyongyang's sanctions-evasions practices that facilitate coal and fuel transports in violations of U.S. and UN sanctions, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
In all, 27 shipping and trade companies have been designated, as well as 28 vessels and one individual. All are registered or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama or Comoros.
The sole designated individual is Taiwan national Tsang Yung Yuan, who the Treasury Department said "has coordinated North Korean coal exports with a Russia-based North Korean broker", and has worked to further circumvent sanctions. His Taiwan-based Pro-Gain Group Corporation and Taiwan and Marshall Islands-based Kingly Won International Co., Ltd. were part of Friday's designations.
The Treasury Department, in conjunction with the State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, is issuing a global shipping advisory intended to alert the world to North Korea's "deceptive shipping practices", the official said.
"We expect companies and countries to comply with and enforce these sanctions and we will not hesitate to take action against those who do not," the official said. "We are very much closing in on one of the primary means that the regime uses to sustain and finance itself and evade sanctions."
Friday's actions were followed by the U.S. mission to the UN submitting a list of entities for UN designation for alleged sanctions violations in a further bid "aimed at shutting down North Korea’s illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.
"We are ramping up the pressure on the North Korean regime, and we’re going to use every tool at our disposal, including working with our allies and through the UN, to increase the pressure until North Korea reverses course. The world will not accept a nuclear North Korea,” the U.S.'s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, said.