US imposes North Korea-related sanctions on Russian, Chinese tech firms
The United States has imposed sanctions on two tech firms, one in Russia and one in China, accusing them of moving illicit funding to North Korea in violation of American sanctions.
The US Treasury Department said in a statement on Thursday that the new sanctions target China-based Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co, and a Russian-based subsidiary, Volasys Silver Star, Reuters reported.
The US Treasury statement accused the companies for supporting North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
“These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disguising their true identities and hiding behind front companies, aliases, and third-party nationals,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
He called on the companies across the world “to take precautions to ensure that they are not unwittingly employing North Korean workers for technology projects.”
Talking to Reuters, a manager at Yanbian Silverstar said the allegations were “impossible”.
“I’ve never heard of Jong Song Hwa,” he told the news service.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has maintained harsh sanctions against North Korea, despite a historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June in Singapore.
The US has also accused Russia of violating UN sanctions on North Korea by allowing North Korean laborers to work in Russia. Moscow has denied it.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday that Moscow was seeking to cover up breaches of UN sanctions on North Korea by Russians.
The Trump administration has demanded North Korea give up its nuclear arsenal but Pyongyang has given no such indication that it will meet the US demand.
A report by sanctions monitors was submitted to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee last month. The report claimed Pyongyang has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and accused it of violating UN sanctions on exports.
Western diplomats accused Russia of pressuring the independent sanctions monitors to amend the report.
"Russia can't be allowed to edit and obstruct independent UN reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don't like what they say. Period," Haley said in a statement.
"The full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions remains mandatory for all member states – including Russia,” she said.
The Russian mission to the United Nations has not commented on the issue yet.
Following the Trump-Kim meeting in June, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two leaders signed a joined document, committing to establishing new relations and achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Before signing the document, Kim said the two leaders had “decided to leave the past behind” and that “the world will see a major change.”
Trump said he had formed a “very special bond” with Kim and that Washington’s relationship with Pyongyang would be very different.
However, Trump later on declared North Korea an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US national security.
While the summit was seen as a test for diplomacy that could end the long-running nuclear standoff, foreign policy experts have warned that the stakes are still high for an armed conflict if diplomacy fails.
The US seeks the complete and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang is demanding a solid guarantee of its security and the removal of Washington’s nuclear umbrella protecting allies South Korea and Japan.