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Treasury unveils new sanctions on Chinese, Russian entities in push to pressure North Korea

  • The United States unveils new sanctions against 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and entities.
  • The Treasury Department aims to crack down on groups that could be aiding North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
  • China is widely seen as crucial to a diplomatic solution.

The United States is targeting Chinese and Russian entities and individuals with new sanctions in its push to pressure North Korea to back off its nuclear ambitions.

The Treasury Department on Tuesday said it would target 10 entities and six individuals who help already-sanctioned people aiding North Korea's missile program or "deal in the North Korean energy trade." The U.S. also aims to sanction people and groups that allow North Korean entities to access the U.S. financial system or helps its exportation of workers, according to the Treasury.

"Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region."

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
Cheriss May | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

As the isolated regime continues its nuclear and missile tests, the U.S. has sought to use economic pressure from China — Pyongyang's only major ally — to force a change in behavior.

Earlier this month, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea ratcheted up after President Donald Trump warned he would respond to threats with "fire and fury." The president and North Korea's state media agency escalated their rhetoric for several days before toning it down since.

Top U.S. officials say they do not want to take military action against North Korea unless it is a last resort. Getting China to cooperate is seen as a key part of a diplomatic solution.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to sanction North Korea, on top of already imposed sanctions. That measure got the support of both China and Russia.

Trump's "fire and fury" rhetoric this month came after reports that Pyongyang had successfully developed a nuclear weapon small enough to fit with its intercontinental ballistic missiles.