The latest sanctions target three North Korean officials identified as directly involved in Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Japan, South Korea and the United States have imposed sanctions on North Korean officials involved in the country’s illegal weapons programs, with Washington saying Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles pose “serious risks to the region and the entire world”.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday named the individuals Jon Il Ho, Yu Jin and Kim Su Gil, all of whom have been designated by the European Union for sanctions in April.
The sanctions freeze all of the individuals’ US-based assets and prohibit transactions with them, but seem largely symbolic.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has announced sanctions against seven other individuals, including one Singaporean and one Taiwanese person, and eight entities. All are already subject to US sanctions imposed between January 2018 and October 2022, the ministry said.
Japan has also designated three entities and one person for new sanctions, Japan’s foreign ministry said, including the Lazarus Group, which is suspected of carrying out cyber-attacks.
China and Russia have blocked recent attempts to impose more United Nations sanctions on North Korea, saying they should instead be eased to spark talks and prevent humanitarian damage. That has led Washington to focus on trilateral efforts with Japan and South Korea, as well as European partners.
The latest sanctions follow a Nov. 18 intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea, part of a record-breaking spate of more than 60 missile launches this year and amid concerns the country is about to resume nuclear weapons tests, which have been suspended since 2017. suspended. .
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the tests posed a threat to global security and that the latest punitive measures “underscore our continued determination to be accountable in response to Pyongyang’s pace, scale and scope of ballistic missile launches.” .
The Treasury Department said the missile tests “demonstrate that all countries must fully implement UN Security Council resolutions,” which are designed to prevent North Korea from acquiring the technologies, materials and revenues it needs to build its nuclear and develop ballistic missile capabilities.
It said the sanctioned officials, Jon Il Ho and Yu Jin, have played a critical role in the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) while serving as vice director and director of North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department, respectively.
It said Kim Su Gil served as director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the implementation of decisions related to the WMD program.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the latest move was part of its effort to respond sternly to North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.
Decades of US-led sanctions have failed to halt North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear weapons programs.
“It is important to address senior officials within North Korea responsible for weapons of mass destruction and missile activities and cooperation with South Korea and Japan, but it is an inadequate and symbolic response to more than 60 missile tests, including 8 ICBM tests.” said Anthony Ruggiero, head of US North Korea sanctions efforts under former President Donald Trump.
“The Biden administration must approve Pyongyang’s revenues and force Kim Jong-un to make tough decisions about his strategic priorities,” he said.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan previously said Washington was determined to use pressure and diplomacy to entice North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.
He said the government was under no illusions about the challenges but remained determined to hold Pyongyang accountable.
A spokesman for the White House National Security Council said sanctions had been successful in “slowing the development” of its weapons programs and that Pyongyang had turned to “increasingly desperate revenue-generating ways, such as virtual currency heists and other cybercrimes to to fund its weapons programs”. .
“The DPRK’s decision to continue ignoring our aid is not in their own interest, nor in the interest of the DPRK people,” the spokesman said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name.