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US issues sanctions against North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two Russian banks, a North Korean company and a person accused of supporting North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program, increasing pressure on Pyongyang over its new launches ballistic missiles.

The latest US move came a day after China and Russia vetoed US-led pressure to impose more UN sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches, publicly dividing the UN Security Council for the first time since it began punishing Pyongyang in 2006.

The vetoes came despite what the United States says will be a sixth test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea this year and signs that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement that it was targeting Air Koryo Trading Corp as well as Russian financial institutions Far Eastern Bank and Bank Sputnik for helping with procurement and revenue generation for North Korean organizations.

Washington also nominated Jong Yong Nam, a Belarus-based representative of an organization subordinate to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), which Washington says has supported North Korean organizations linked to the

development of ballistic missiles.

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

“The United States will continue to implement and enforce existing sanctions while urging the DPRK (North Korea) to return to diplomatic channels and abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles,” he said. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

China has urged the United States to take action – including lifting some unilateral sanctions – to entice Pyongyang to resume talks stalled since 2019, after three failures

summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump. The United States said Pyongyang should not be rewarded.

Late Friday, senior diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the United States issued a joint statement saying North Korea had “significantly increased the pace and scale of its ballistic missile launches since September 2021.”

In the statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi urged Pyongyang to “resume negotiations”.

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