Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department hit Russia with sanctions for transferring oil to North Korea, but stressed that sanctions aren't the only tool for diplomacy.
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five Russian-flagged vessels for ship-to-ship transfers of oil to North Korean-flagged vessels, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"Consequences for violating these sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
So far this year, the Treasury Department charges that Russian vessels have transferred 3,500 tons of oil to North Korean entities accused of engaging in illicit economic activity for the leadership in Pyongyang. The volume equates to roughly 25,000 barrels of oil.
Treasury's move cuts along multiple diplomatic fronts. The U.S. government continues to put pressure on Russia for its position in Eastern Europe, including the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine in 2014. For North Korea, it adds to efforts to isolate the regime even with the face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.
North Korea has few allies and relies on a handful of countries for its goods. Testifying on Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea said sanctions can't be the only tool in the U.S. diplomatic arsenal.
"The scale and sophistication of Russian malign activity is far more advanced than that of other states currently subject to broad U.S. sanctions," he said in his prepared remarks. "Further, the size of the Russian economy and its deep integration into the global economy and financial system present a unique challenge."
Russia is party to an effort to led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries designed to balance the energy market with coordinated oil production restraints. It also sits on a committee monitoring compliance, giving it unique leverage on the broader market.