North Korea hit with new sanctions over missile programme

Top North Korean officials, including three from Kim Jong-un’s regime, have been slapped with fresh sanctions from the US, South Korea, and Japan on Friday on charges of participating in illegal activities to finance Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missiles programme.

At least eight individuals and seven companies from North Korea have been sanctioned by South Korea on Friday morning for their alleged role in contributing to the North’s weapons programme, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The seven companies “support illegal financial activities in North Korea” and handle “ship-to-ship transshipment of sanctioned goods”, the ministry statement said, adding that these firms have engaged in evading sanctions.

On Thursday, the US blacklisted three members of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) – Jon Il Ho, Yu Jin and Kim Su Gil – for allegedly playing “major roles” in advancing Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programme.

“Treasury 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 unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs,” said Brian E Nelson, under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

This action is in line with wider multilateral efforts to impede the DPRK’s ability to advance its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programmes that threaten regional stability, he added.

Additionally, Japan’s foreign ministry also designated Kim Su II, an official at North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department in Vietnam and three other organisations, including the North’s hacking syndicate Lazarus group suspected of carrying out cyberattacks, for new sanctions.

The coordinated move from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo can draw an irritated response from North Korea which called South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol and his government “idiots” and a “wild dog gnawing on a bone given by the US”. This was after Seoul announced its consideration to place more unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang.

The fresh round of sanctions, South Korea’s foreign ministry said, are in response to the North’s heightened weapons threat as it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that demonstrated potential range to reach the US mainland.

In October, 15 North Korean individuals and 16 organisations accused of supporting the North’s arms development were sanctioned in Seoul’s first unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang in five years.