The US Treasury Department on Thursday arrested three North Korean officials in connection with the nation’s weapons of mass destruction program.
The sanctions come in the wake of a flurry of missile launches from Pyongyang, including the Nov. 18 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile — its eighth ICBM launch this year.
“Treasury is taking action in close trilateral coordination with the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Japan against officials who have been instrumental in the DPRK’s illicit WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Brian Nelson, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a news release. release, using the acronym Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The recent launches demonstrate the need for all countries to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions that require Pyongyang to develop its prohibited WMD and ballistic missile capabilities to prevent the DPRK from acquiring technologies, materials and revenues,” Nelson said.
The US sanctions target three officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), Jan Il Ho, Yoo Jin and Kim Su Gil.
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “The European Union (EU) designated the three earlier this year, saying that both John and Yu have played a role in the DPRK’s WMD programs and participated in multiple ballistic missile launches. , Kim is responsible for the implementation of WPK decisions related to the development of the DPRK’s illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“These steps underscore our continued determination to promote accountability in response to the speed, scale and range of Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launches,” Blinken said.
In a separate announcement on Friday, South Korea said it would impose independent sanctions on eight North Korean individuals and seven organizations linked to Pyongyang’s weapons development program and sanctions evasion.
“Our government will continue to strengthen cooperation with relevant countries to ensure a united and strong response from the international community, including additional sanctions, regarding North Korea’s serious provocations,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
US officials have repeatedly condemned North Korea’s missile launches as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to international peace and stability.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Saturday that his country aims to have the “world’s most powerful” nuclear force as he encouraged dozens of military personnel involved in the latest 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 it is likely to conduct another nuclear test, which would be very destabilizing.”
“And I think you’ve seen other countries in the region, including the United States and the Republic of Korea and Japan, highlight the fact that there will be consequences for that. Again, I won’t go into that. But we hope that North Korea will not conduct such destabilizing activity,” he said. .
The Biden administration has repeatedly tried to engage directly with North Korea, but Pyongyang has “not responded substantially,” a senior US administration official told CNN in early November.
Engagement efforts have taken place through various means, including private bilateral channels, third parties and public messaging, the official said.
The official declined to go into more specifics, citing the sensitivity of the communications, but said what Pyongyang did “makes clear that they are not interested in diplomacy.”
The administration is “highly confident” that it is delivering messages to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “for a number of reasons, they are making public reference to why they are refusing to talk to us,” the official said.
“It’s not something where we wonder, Gee, is our message getting through or are they lifting it up? We are very confident because we have seen Kim Jong Un himself refer to our efforts to seek dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.
The official would not say if there was a scenario in which the United States would stop seeking dialogue without preconditions.
“We fundamentally believe that it’s very important to have a dialogue and we need to find ways to understand and 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. “It’s ultimately their decision to refuse to start the process.”