Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin unveiled a new round of U.S. sanctions against North Korea Thursday, this time targeting banks that, he said, "enable this regime's economic activity."
"For too long North Korea has evaded sanctions and used the international financial system to facilitate funding for its weapons and mass destruction and ballistic missile programs," he said.
"This new executive order will authorize Treasury to impose a range of sanctions such as suspending U.S. corresponding account access to any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea," Mnuchin said, but will only apply only to future behavior.
The Treasury Department also intends to freeze the assets of "anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea," Mnuchin said.
Foreign banks "can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea but not both."
Mnuchin declined to say exactly what the United States was seeking from North Korea, but said the country must "stop their missile tests and give up their nuclear weapons."
"We call on all countries around the world to join us by cutting off all financial ties to North Korea to bring about a denuclearized Korean peninsula."
The new sanctions came just hours after reports emerged that the Bank of China will stop doing business with North Korea, the most serious sign to date that Beijing is unwilling to accept North Korea's recent increase in missile launches and bomb tests.
Mnuchin stressed that the new U.S. sanctions were not intended to pressure China, despite the fact that China is the chief trading partner of Kim's regime. Mnuchin did say, however, that he had a "very productive" conversation this morning with representatives of the Bank of China, but added that there was no coordination of these announcements ahead of time between the U.S. and China.