The Trump administration announced harsh new sanctions on North Korea today to increase pressure on Pyongyang for its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The Treasury Department is calling the package that hit more than 50 entities the ‘largest North Korea-related sanctions tranche to date.’
The new U.S. sanctions were announced while Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is visiting South Korea. She’s attending the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games along with the president’s press secretary.
President Donald Trump is expected to talk about the new sanctions during a mid-morning speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, and the Treasury Department will get into the details later in the day
The new U.S. sanctions will be announced while Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is visiting South Korea. She’s seen here with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday
The sanctions target one person, 27 companies and 28 vessels.
‘Treasury is aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block the vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea´s behalf,’ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
President Donald Trump was expected to talk about the new sanctions during a mid-morning speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Senior administration officials detailed the sanctions on a call with reporters on Friday morning.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had hinted at new sanctions two weeks ago during a stop in Tokyo that preceded his visit to South Korea for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The tougher sanctions may jeopardize the latest detente between the two Koreas, illustrated by the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics in the South, though, amid preparations for talks about a possible summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
In an extension of that rapprochement, the North agreed on Friday to hold working-level talks on Tuesday for the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics on the North’s side of the border village of Panmunjom.
Moon expressed his gratitude towards President Trump today in South Korea during a dinner with the president’s daughter, saying ongoing talks with North Korea were thanks to Trump’s ‘strong support’.
‘North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games has served as an opportunity for us to engage in active discussions between the two Koreas and this has led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations,’ Moon said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he wants to boost the ‘warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue’ with South Korea, which hosts 28,500 U.S. troops, after a high-level delegation, including his sister, returned from the Olympics
The South Korean president said, ‘I also believe that such developments are thanks to President Trump’s strong support for inter-Korean dialogue and I would like to express my deep appreciation on this point as well.’
North Korea last year conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions as it pursues its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States. It defends the weapons programmes as essential to deter U.S. aggression.
But it has been more than two months since its last missile test.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he wants to boost the ‘warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue’ with South Korea, which hosts 28,500 U.S. troops, after a high-level delegation, including his sister, returned from the Olympics.
Ivanka Trump had dinner with Moon on Friday after a closed-door meeting with the president in Seoul prior to the Games’ closing ceremony.
‘I thank you for hosting us all here tonight as we reaffirm our bonds of friendship, of cooperation, of partnership and reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean peninsula is denuclearized,’ she told Moon before heading inside the dinner venue at the Blue House.
Ivanka Trump’s visit coincides with that of a sanctioned North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, blamed for the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors. His delegation will attend the closing ceremony and also meet Moon.
The Blue House has said there are no official opportunities for U.S. and North Korean officials to meet.
Kim Yong Chol is the vice-chairman of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and was previously chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a top North Korean military intelligence agency which South Korea blamed for the sinking of its navy corvette, the Cheonan.
North Korea has denied any involvement.
Seoul said it approved the pending visit by Kim Yong Chol in the pursuit of peace and asked for public understanding in the face of opposition protests.
‘Under current difficult circumstances, we have decided to focus on whether peace on the Korean peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations can be derived from dialogue with (the visiting North Korean officials), not on their past or who they are,’ said Unification Ministry Baik Tae-hyun in a media briefing.
Ivanka Trump’s visit coincides with that of a sanctioned North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, blamed for the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors. His delegation will attend the closing ceremony and also meet Moon
A South Korean lawmaker briefed by the country’s spy agency said on Friday that Kim Yong Chol was the ‘right person’ for inter-Korean and denuclearization talks.
‘Kim Yong Chol is the top official regarding inter-Korean relations and he is being accepted (here) as the right person to discuss various issues like easing military tension, improving inter-Korean ties and denuclearization,’ said Kang Seok-ho to reporters.
Kim Yong Chol currently heads the United Front Department, the North’s office responsible for handling inter-Korean affairs.
South Korea’s decision on Thursday to allow in Kim Yong Chol, currently sanctioned by the United States and South Korea, sparked protest from family members of the dead sailors and opposition parties.
Some 70 members of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party staged a protest in front of the Blue House on Friday.
‘President Moon’s decision to accept the North’s facade of peace is a serious issue and it will go down in history as a crime eternal,’ said the party in a statement.
A group of family members of those killed in the Cheonan sinking has said it will hold a press conference on Saturday.
Acknowledging public angst over Kim Yong Chol’s pending visit, Baik said the South’s stance that the Cheonan sinking was instigated by the North has not changed.
‘However, what’s important are efforts to create actual peace on the Korean peninsula so these kind of provocations don’t occur again,’ said Baik, adding the government would make ‘various efforts’ to assuage the public’s concerns.
Many have been angered at the North’s participation at the Games, which they say has been a reward for bad behavior with no quid pro quo from Pyongyang.