The U.S., South Korea and Japan are sanctioning North Korean officials for the unlawful development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles as Kim Jong-un conducts missile launches at an unprecedented rate in East Asia.
The Treasury late Thursday pointed to an intercontinental ballistic missile test on Nov. 18 — Pyongyang’s eighth this year — on top of 60 other missile launches in 2022 in violation of U.N. resolutions.
The sanctions will target Jon Il-ho, Yu-jin and Kim Su-gil, three officials in the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), for their roles in weapons development and attendance at numerous launches since 2017.
“Sanctions have been successful in slowing down the development of its unlawful weapons programs,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, on Friday.
She warned that as Pyongyang is cut off from the international financial system, it has turned to “increasingly desperate” ways to generate revenue — including virtual currency heists and other cyber thefts — to fund its weapons programs.
“As the DPRK adjusts its tactics in the face of international pressure, we will continue to use all available tools to further limit the growth of these destabilizing weapons programs,” she said, using a formal acronym for North Korea.
U.S. leaders and their allies have struggled for years to deal with North Korea’s aggression and nuclear ambitions. Mr. Kim, like previous North Korean leaders, would like sanctions relief but views his weapons program as critical to the country’s strength and survival, leading to a stalemate.
Former President Donald Trump tried to break the thaw in a series of high-stakes meetings with the leader but was unable to broker a major deal.
The Biden White House said the door “has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must cease its destabilizing actions and engage diplomatically.”
“The DPRK’s decision to ignore our outreach is not in its best interest,” Ms. Watson said, “nor in the interest of the people of the DPRK who continue to suffer as a result of decisions made by the regime.”