USA targets Chinese bank, company, two individuals over North Korea

The United States on Thursday blacklisted a small Chinese bank accused of illicit dealings with North Korea, escalating the pressure on Beijing to rein in its wayward ally amid increased signs that President Donald Trump and his top advisers are frustrated with China's diplomatic efforts.

Anthony Ruggiero a former senior Treasury official in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, said the action against Bank of Dandong is the first time US authorities sought to punish a Chinese bank accused of helping North Korea.

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and accused a Chinese bank of laundering money for Pyongyang.

In addition, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control designated two Chinese individuals and one Chinese company in response to North Korea's ongoing WMD development and continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

Mnuchin said the USA would continue to look at other penalties that can be imposed on North Korea and that the topic will be on the agenda when Trump meets with other leaders of major economic powers at the Group of 20 summit next week in Germany.

His Treasury Department is branding the Bank of Dandong a "primary money laundering concern", and is proposing to severe the bank from the USA financial system, pending a 60-day review period.

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The death of American university student Otto Warmbier last week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, has further complicated Mr Trump's approach to North Korea.

"We are in no way targeting China with these actions", Mnuchin said at a White House briefing Thursday. At least I know China tried!' Trump tweeted on June 20.

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) says that one Chinese citizen, Sun Wei, has been "closely aligned with" and running a cover company on behalf of North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank, FTB, which was already under US sanctions for facilitating transactions "on behalf of North Korea's WMD proliferation network".

Dalian Global Unity is reported to transport 700,000 tons of freight annually, including coal and steel products, between China and North Korea, Treasury said.

"If Trump wants to get serious about applying greater pressure on North Korea, at this point that will require a more coercive attitude toward China", Ratner said.

Sun Wei is suspected of directing a screen company for the account of the bank in north Korean Foreign Trade Bank, the main settlement currency in the country. And it's also said to be involved in luxury goods smuggling incidents.

  • Sonia Alvarado