The Trump administration has announced that its strategy on North Korea will be to increase sanctions and diplomatic pressure until North Korea ends its nuclear and missile programmes. The announcement came after Trump briefed all 100 US senators, who said that no specific military option was presented to them. The South Korean president’s office also released a statement saying that South Korea and the US had agreed “to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN Security Council resolution, that are unbearable for the North” if North Korea continues to breach international law.
The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test, and threatened to “take further significant measures including sanctions”. In a statement, the Security Council demanded that North Korea fully comply with its obligations under the relevant UN resolutions, including immediately terminating its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear activities.
Japan has decided to renew its unilateral sanctions on North Korea for a further 2 years. The sanctions ban all trade between Japan and North Korea, and ban North Korean ships from docking at Japanese ports. The EU expanded the scope of its sanctions on North Korea earlier this week (see previous blog).
The EU has decided to expand its nuclear-proliferation sanctions on North Korea, in response to its apparent violations of UN resolutions and the threat it poses to international peace and security. The new sanctions expand existing prohibitions on investment to new sectors, namely conventional arms, metallurgy, and aerospace. They also prohibit the provision of computer services and services linked to mining and manufacturing in the chemical, mining, and refining industry to people and entities in North Korea.
In addition, the Council has added 4 more people to its sanctions listings on North Korea, for being responsible for supporting or promoting North Korea’s nuclear, ballistic missile, or other WMD-related programmes. They are Ri Myong Su, So Hong Chan, Wang Chang Uk, and Jang Chol. This brings the total number of listed people to 41, in addition to 7 entities. See Regulation 2017/658 amending Regulation 329/2007, and Decision 2017/666 and Decision 2017/667 amending Decision 2016/849.
OFAC has sanctioned 11 North Korean nationals and 1 entity said by the USA to be working as agents of the North Korean regime in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba to provide that regime and other designated entities with financial support or WMD procurement services. The newly designated people operated in the WMD-related, financial, and mining sectors. OFAC’s press release which explains and lists the targeted people / enties is here.
ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd), a Chinese telecoms company, has agreed with OFAC, BIS and the DOJ in the USA to plead guilty to civil and criminal charges of violating US sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and pay a combined $1.2bn in fines ($300m of which is suspended). It also agreed to a 7-year suspended denial of export privileges, and to dismiss 4 senior officials who were involved in the violations.
A 5-year-long investigation found that ZTE had conspired to evade US sanctions by incorporating US components into its equipment and illegally shipping it to Iran, and by making 283 shipments of telecoms equipment to North Korea. ZTE is also said to have used “isolation companies” to conceal the use of controlled US-components, intentionally failed to mention them on customs declarations, employed people to specifically remove incriminating evidence from internal communications, and caused its lawyers to unintentionally lie to US officials.
ZTE was first penalised by US authorities in March 2016, when US companies were prohibited from selling to it without a specific licence, and non-US companies were prohibited from selling products to it which contained a significant percentage of US-made components (see previous blog). The US Department of Commerce will recommend that the requirement for a licence to do business with ZTE be lifted if ZTE complies with the terms of its settlement agreement.
A new unpublished UN report is said to have found that North Korea is using a network of front companies to “[flout] sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope, and sophistication”. The report also criticises Member States for lacking the “political will” to back up the tougher sanctions on North Korea that were introduced last year (see previous blog), failing to commit the resources necessary for their effective implementation.
The EU has implemented the sanctions on North Korea / DPRK that the UN Security Council imposed in November last year (see previous blog). These new sanctions include a cap on imports of coal from North Korea, a ban on imports of statues and several metals from North Korea, and a ban on exporting new helicopters and vessels to North Korea. They also tighten existing restrictions on North Korea, including by limiting North Korean diplomats to only one bank account in the EU, and requiring Member States to take further measures to prevent specialised nuclear or missile-related teaching being provided to North Koreans.