US sanctions three North Korean officials tied to weapons of mass destruction program



CNN

The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned three North Korean officials linked to the country’s weapons of mass destruction program.

The sanctions come in the wake of the barrage of missile launches from Pyongyang, including an intercontinental ballistic missile launch on November 18 – its eighth ICBM launch this year.

“The Treasury Department is taking action in close trilateral coordination with the Republic of Korea and Japan against officials who have had leading roles in the DPRK’s illicit WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Undersecretary of the Treasury Department for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a news release using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Recent launches demonstrate the need for all countries to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions aimed at preventing the DPRK from acquiring the technologies, materials and revenues that Pyongyang needs to develop its proscribed WMD and ballistic missile capabilities,” Nelson said.

Thursday’s sanctions target Jon Il Ho, Yu Jin and Kim Su Gil, three officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “the European Union (EU) designated all three earlier this year, noting that Jon and Yu have both played a role in the DPRK’s WMD programs and have participated in multiple ballistic missile launches , while Kim has been responsible for the implementation of WPK decisions related to the development of the DPRK’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

“These steps also underscore our continued commitment to promote accountability in response to Pyongyang’s pace, scope and scale of ballistic missile launches,” Blinken said.

US officials have repeatedly condemned North Korea’s missile launches as violations of UN Security Council resolutions and threats to international peace and stability.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Saturday that his country aims to have the “world’s most powerful” nuclear force as he promoted dozens of military personnel involved in the recent launch of a new ballistic missile, state news agency KCNA reported on Sunday.

Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday: “We know that North Korea has said that they are likely to conduct another nuclear test, which would be very destabilizing.”

“And I think you’ve seen the United States, as well as other countries in the region, which include the Republic of Korea and Japan, highlight the fact that there would be consequences. Again, I won’t go into that. But we would hope, that North Korea would not carry out such destabilizing activity,” he said.

The Biden administration has repeatedly tried to engage directly with North Korea, but Pyongyang has “not responded significantly,” a senior U.S. administration official told CNN in early November.

The engagement efforts have been through a variety of means, including private bilateral channels, third parties and public messaging, the official said.

The official declined to go into detail, citing the sensitivity of the communications, but said what Pyongyang has done, saying it “makes it clear that they are not interested in diplomacy.”

The administration is “very confident” that the messages are reaching North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they are publicly referring to why they refuse to talk to us,” the official said.

“This is not something where we’re wondering, whoa, is our message getting through or are they going all the way to the top? We’re very confident because we’ve seen Kim Jong Un himself refer to our efforts to seek dialogue and diplomacy ,” they added.

The official would not say whether there is a scenario where the US would stop seeking dialogue without preconditions.

“We believe very fundamentally that dialogue is extremely important and we have to look for ways to understand and get them to tell us what they’re looking for and we can tell them what we’re looking for , and see if there are ways to make progress,” the official said. “This is ultimately their decision to refuse to start the process.”

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