US targets firms linked to North Korea's nuclear dealings
An Iranian company is the first to be penalized as the US uses stricter financial sanctions to curb Pyongyang's weapons program.
North Korea is not a rich country. But the US has squeezed its finances in the past, in an effort to get Pyongyang to curb its weapons programs. Armed with new UN sanctions, Washington seems determined to try this approach again.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
That is the calculus that may lie behind Tuesday's action by the Treasury to impose financial sanctions on Hong Kong Electronics – an Iranian firm that the US accuses of being part of North Korea's missile proliferation network.
The action means that any bank accounts or other assets linked to the firm within the US financial system must be frozen. Nor can Americans do any business with the company.
"North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings, making it nearly impossible for responsible banks and governments to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate North Korean transactions," said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, announcing the move Tuesday.
The US says that Hong Kong Electronics has arranged for payments to Pyongyang in exchange for weapons exports, presumably to the Iranian government.
United Nations Security Council resolutions now call for international efforts to block financing of North Korean's nuclear, missile, and other dangerous weapon activities.
Slapping penalties on Hong Kong Electronics "is a part of our overall effort to prevent North Korea from misusing the international financial system to advance its nuclear and missile programs and to sell dangerous technology around the world," said Mr. Levy – implying further action to come.
Myanmar, in particular, may face US action on a number of fronts.