U.S. targets Singapore, Marshall Islands firms in new North Korea sanctions

By Daphne Psaledakis and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday imposed new sanctions targeting a fuel procurement network that Washington said supports Pyongyang’s weapons programs and military, following North Korea’s latest missile launches this week.

Friday’s action targeted two Singapore-registered companies and one Marshall Islands-registered firm, the US Treasury Department said in a statement, as Washington seeks to hold North Korea accountable for ship-to-ship transfers that violate the sanctions of the United Nations against the country.

“By designating these entities and individuals, the United States is sending a clear message that we will continue to take action against those who support the development and maintenance of the DPRK’s military and weapons arsenal,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate Statement Statement referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name.

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North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sanctions were imposed after North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Tuesday, prompting joint missile exercises by South Korea and the United States.

North Korea on Thursday fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea towards Japan, following the return of a US aircraft carrier to the region and a UN Security Council meeting in response to the North’s recent launches.

These launches marked the sixth time in 12 days that North Korea tested ballistic missiles.

Decades of US-led sanctions have not stopped North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear bomb programs, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown no interest in returning to a failed path of diplomacy he chartered with former US President Donald Trump.

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The United States on Wednesday accused China and Russia of empowering Kim by shielding Pyongyang from attempts to tighten UN Security Council sanctions on its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The Treasury announced in the new sanctions on Friday that they are Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng, Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan and Marshall Islands-registered company New Eastern Shipping Co Ltd – which Treasury says also has an address in China and Singapore.

It accused her of involvement in ownership or management of a vessel involved in multiple shipments of refined petroleum to North Korea.

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Washington said the ship had made ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean ships and at least one direct delivery, and said it had been involved in “deceptive shipping practices.”

United Nations sanctions monitors have found that North Korea has repeatedly circumvented restrictions on trade in things like coal and oil, often by ship-to-ship transhipment at sea.

Also named were Singapore-registered Anfasar Trading (S) Pte. ltd and Singapore registered Swanseas Port Services Pte. ltd about their ties to Kwek, Treasury said.

Swanseas Port Services and Anfasar Trading did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sanctions against the companies or Kwek. Reuters could not immediately reach New Eastern Shipping for comment.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, David Brunnstrom, and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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