North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured in January 2019, lauded ballistic missile tests and said the country needs to further accelerate it's efforts at building "strategic military muscle." Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday the United States is sanctioning five North Korean individuals for procuring goods used for ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
"Today's actions, part of the United States' ongoing efforts to counter the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, target its continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The DPRK's latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community's calls for diplomacy and denuclearization."
The five North Koreans sanctioned Wednesday are based in Russia and China.
Choe Myong Hyon, based in Vladivostok, Russia, was designated for sanctions for working to procure telecommunications equipment from Russia for North Korean companies, the Treasury Department said in a press release.
Choe worked as a chief representative of an organization subordinate to the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.
The U.S. Treasury and the State Department designated SANS in 2010 as being involved with North Korea's weapons programs, helping to obtain commodities and technology for defense research and development.
The sanctions also targeted four representatives of SANS-subordinate organizations based in China: Sim Kwang Sok, accused of working to procure steel alloys; Kim Song Hun, who worked to acquire software and chemicals; Kang Chol Hak, who worked to procure unspecified goods from Chinese companies; and Pyon Kwang Chol, deputy representative of a company believed to be a cover for another SANS firm, the Treasury Department said.
In a related action on Wednesday, the State Department named one Russian, one North Korean and a Russian entity for designation over accusations of working together to advance the WMD program regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's WMD program.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russian-based North Korean O Yong Ho in a statement of working from at least 2016 with Russian company Parsek LLC and its director of development, Roman Anatolyevich Alar, to procure goods with ballistic missile applications, such as Kevlar thread, aramid fiber, aviation oil and precision million machines that are controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The United States also accused Anatolyevich Alar of providing O with instructions for creating solid rocket fuel mixtures.
The procurement and supply relationship between O, Anatolyevich and Parsek "is a key source of missile-applicable goods and technology for the DPRK's missile program," Blinken said.
Wednesday's actions are part of U.S. efforts to "prevent the advancement of the DPRK's WMD and ballistic missile programs and impede attempts by Pyongyang to proliferate related technologies."
North Korea launched two ballistic missiles it described as hypersonic in recent days. On Wednesday, it said Tuesday's launch was the "final verification" of its hypersonic missile system.
Washington, D.C., and Seoul have offered to sit down with Pyongyang to discuss its weapons programs, but the secretive state has yet to return to the table after talks came to a standstill in February 2019 when the Vietnam summit between North Korean leader Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump failed to produce an agreement.
In announcing sanctions against the five people, the United States said "all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC."
These sanctions also apply to foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate transactions or provide significant financial services to the sanctioned individuals.
"These are important measures to constrain North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear program," Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, told reporters during a regular press briefing on Wednesday. "And it's important that the international community send a strong, unified message that the DPRK must halt provocations, it must abide by its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and engage in sustained and intensive negotiations."