US Sanctions: A Threat to North Korea’s illicit shipping practices?
The Trump administration sanctioned two Chinese shipping companies on March 22, which were suspected of helping North Korea evade sanctions. This was the first targeted action taken by the government against North Korea’s illicit shipping practices since its nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang in Hanoi, which ended without any proper agreement.
In the same context, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton tweeted, “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion”. The sanctions are the evidence that the government is trying to put pressure on North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un, so that they halt their Nuclear Weapon program.
Despite the heavy sanctions imposed by various international communities for its illicit behavior, North Korea has continued to escalate its Weapons of Mass Destruction policy. It withdrew from the NPT unilaterally in January 2003, prompting China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and US to engage North Korea in the Six Party Talks for a diplomatic solution to the country’s nuclear program. The talks fell apart in 2009, and no serious diplomatic initiatives to denuclearize North Korea occurred until 2018, when Kim Jong-un during the Trump-Kim summit reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, it ended without any agreement or proper solution to the problem.
North Korea employs deceptive shipping practices such as disabling or manipulating automated identification systems, physically altering vessels, conducting ship-to-ship (STS) transfers, and falsifying cargo documentation. Thereby the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the designation of two shipping companies based in China, which have helped North Korea evade sanctions, highlighting the deceptive methods that the North Korean regime uses to circumvent international and U.S. sanctions.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin warned the companies saying that, “Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk”. OFAC designated Dalian Haibo International Freight Co. Ltd. and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co. Ltd. for using deceptive methods that enabled EU-based North Korean procurement officials to operate and purchase goods for the DPRK regime and to circumvent international and U.S. sanctions.
However, with Treasury’s attempt, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or transiting within the United States is blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from dealing with the designated persons. North Korea has active and sophisticated nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It is believed to possess chemical and biological weapons capabilities, so the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions are crucial to a successful outcome, to safeguard the interests of all the nations and to avoid any nuclear threat from the country in the near future.
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