US asks UN to blacklist Russian ships, firms over N.Korea dealings

Main sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against North Korea in recent years

The United States has asked the UN Security Council to blacklist two Russian shipping firms and six Russian-flagged vessels for violating sanctions against North Korea, diplomats said Thursday.

The request presented to a UN sanctions committee on Wednesday was the third attempt by the United States in two months to turn up the pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.

In the latest request, the United States asked that two Russian shipping firms -- Primorye Maritime Logistics and Gudzon Shipping -- be hit by an assets freeze and blacklisted for their alleged dealings with North Korea.

The shippers own a tanker, the M/V Patriot, which conducted ship-to-ship transfers of oil to North Korea tankers twice earlier this year, according to US officials.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday slapped unilateral sanctions on the two Russian companies and the six vessels.

The UN sanctions committee has until August 29 to consider the US request, according to diplomats, who expect Russia to oppose the measure.

Russia and China this month blocked a US bid to add a Russian bank, a North Korean official and two entities to the UN sanctions blacklist. In July, the two countries delayed a US request to cut off fuel deliveries to North Korea.

Russia and China have called on the Security Council to consider easing sanctions to reward North Korea for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier announced he will be making his fourth trip to North Korea next week, this time with the new US envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.

The United States has called for maintaining "maximum pressure" from sanctions until North Korea has fully dismantled its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Security Council last year adopted three rafts of sanctions that banned exports of North Korea's raw commodities and other goods, and severely restricted imports including crucial deliveries of oil.

The sanctions are aimed at cutting off sources of revenue for North Korea's military programs.