Trump Administration Targets North Korean Shipping

New U.S. sanctions target 27 companies, 28 vessels, and one individual in massive increase of pressure on rogue regime

President Donald Trump Friday will take aim at North Korean shipping to further tighten the grip on the rogue regime, senior administration officials told reporters.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president will lay out the case for stronger sanctions Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The United States has been steadily ratcheting up pressure on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile program. North Korea has been taking a number of steps to avoid those sanctions, including dealing with companies willing to ignore trade prohibitions and transferring goods from one ship to another.

Officials said the North Koreans conceal the identity of their ships by painting over names and disabling homing beacons designed to help other ships avoid collisions on the water.

The new penalties target 27 shipping companies, 28 vessels, and one individual from several different countries.

“This is very much a worldwide effort,” one administration official said.

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The United States also will issue a global shipping advisory warning the maritime industry to avoid doing business with the targeted entities.

“The advisory is intended to alert the world [to] the shipping practices used by North Korea to avoid sanctions and also, of course, to make sure it’s loud and clear that there are very significant consequences to evading our sanctions regime and the U.N. sanctions regime,” she said.

A second senior administration official noted that the United Nations has passed three strong resolutions targeting North Korea since August. She said the latest round of sanctions builds on those resolutions. The administration is encouraging other countries to follow America’s lead and impose their own sanctions on the companies and vessels named by the United States.

The first official offered an optimistic view of the success of sanctions so far, despite reports that China and others have helped North Korea avoid them.

“We are very much closing in on one of the primary means that the regime uses to sustain and finance itself and evade sanctions,” she said. “And again, the president has made it loud and clear to companies around the world that if they choose to help fund North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, they will not do business with the United States.”

A third official noted that the U.N. sanctions cap North Korean imports of refined oil. She said those imports are down 89 percent.

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“Obviously, what we see them doing is trying to make up that difference by ship-to-ship transfers, so I think what we’re doing is trying to make sure that the significant reductions of fuel going into North Korea that are mandated by the U.N sanctions are unable to be circumvented,” she said.

The official described the “maximum pressure campaign” as a “whole-of-government” approach.

“We are determined through these efforts to increase the pressure on the North Korean regime and show Kim Jong-un that there’s no other path for him to take but denuclearization,” she told reporters.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected].