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Trump administration targets Chinese and Russian companies over illegal shipments to North Korea

Key Points
  • The U.S. Treasury Department announced new actions Wednesday directed at Chinese and Russian companies that it says have facilitated illicit shipments on behalf of North Korea.
  • The designations come as the U.S. continues to push North Korea to denuclearize and remains locked in a trade war with China.
Chinese cargo trucks are waiting at Dandong Port for their clearance time to transport goods to North Korea through the Sino-Korea friendship bridge. 
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Treasury Department announced new actions Wednesday directed at Chinese and Russian companies that the department said have facilitated illicit shipments on behalf of North Korea.

The department announced designations against one individual and three companies. Those businesses include a Chinese logistics company and its affiliate in Singapore, as well as Russia-based Profinet and its director general.

The actions come as the U.S. continues to push North Korea to denuclearize and remains locked in a trade war with China. The sanctions also follow repeated criticism of President Donald Trump for perceived softness on Russia as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate the country's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"Treasury will continue to implement existing sanctions on North Korea, and will take action to block and designate companies, ports, and vessels that facilitate illicit shipments and provide revenue streams to the DPRK," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury said Wednesday that China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star, a logistics company, as well as its Singapore-based affiliate SINSMS, used falsified shipping documents to ship alcohol, tobacco and cigarette-related items into North Korea in violation of U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

North Korea has profited handsomely from its illicit cigarette trade, according to the Treasury, reportedly netting more than $1 billion per year.

The department also accused Russia-based Profinet of providing port services, including the supplying of fuel, to North Korean vessels on at least six occasions. The Treasury said in the release that Profinet continued to offer its services to North Korean vessels "even after its employees knew of oil-related sanctions on North Korea."

Restricting oil imports to North Korea is a top priority of the U.S., though Chinese and Russian companies have hampered those efforts, experts have said.

"Oil is the life blood of North Korea's effort to build and fund a nuclear weapon," U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in September 2017 after the United Nations passed sanctions on the country designed to limit its oil imports.

The department accused Profinet's director general, Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov, a Russian national, of being "personally involved" in the North Korean deals. The Treasury said he interacted directly with representatives of the North Korean regime in Russia.