Photographer: Dieter Depypere/Bloomberg

U.S. May Penalize More Chinese Companies for Aiding North Korea

  • Treasury sanctioned 4 Chinese citizens, one company Sept. 26
  • UN Security Council preparing new round of sanctions

More Chinese companies could face U.S. penalties over their trading activities with North Korea, as the isolated nation ramps up efforts to develop its missile and nuclear programs, a senior U.S. official told lawmakers in Washington.

“It would also be useful if Chinese banks and companies understood dealing with North Korean companies is going to be risky, ” Ambassador Daniel Fried, coordinator for sanctions policy, told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Wednesday.

The Justice Department charged four Chinese individuals and one Chinese company --- Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Company Ltd. -- on Sept. 26 for “acting for or on behalf of Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation (KKBC), which was previously designated by the United States and the United Nations for providing financial services in support of WMD proliferators.”

The move came after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test this month, following the test firing earlier this year of a trio of ballistic missiles that landed within a few hundred kilometers of Japan’s coast. The latest nuclear blast prompted UN Security Council members to take up talks on a new round of sanctions, which would require unanimity among the five veto-wielding members: Russia, China, the U.S., U.K. and France. Last March, the security council imposed its toughest sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime but left exemptions for “emergencies.”

The support of China, North Korea’s chief trading partner, is essential for any proposed tightening of sanctions to have effect. On a visit to Laos this month, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters that China has done more on sanctions against North Korea in recent months but that it could “tighten up” further in prodding Kim.

In response to a question from Republican Senator Cory Gardner about whether additional Chinese companies were under investigation, Fried said that the Treasury and Justice departments were investigating a number of companies and there were no “red lines” on how far their investigation could go.

“So, I take it as yes, additional Chinese companies are under investigation,” Gardner said.

“I wouldn’t argue with you,” Fried said.

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