The U.S. says it is cracking down on foreign companies that are helping North Korea get around U.N. sanctions aimed at curtailing Pyongyang’s weapons programs and its military.
On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department accused two individuals and three companies of illegally transferring petroleum to North Korean vessels in a scheme to evade the U.N. Security Council sanctions.
U.S. officials said North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, including over Japan, demonstrate the country’s “continued disregard” for the sanctions.
“The United States will continue to enforce multilateral sanctions and pursue (North Korea’s) sanctions evasion efforts worldwide, including by designating those who support these activities,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department, said in a statement.
Treasury’s actions on Friday targeted Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng and Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan. Both men were involved in the ownership or management of the Courageous, a ship that participated in several deliveries of refined petroleum to North Korea, according to the Treasury Department.
The companies sanctioned by U.S. government officials are the New Eastern Shipping Co.; Anfasar Trading Pte. Ltd.; and Swanseas Port Services Pte.
The Courageous was renamed the Sea Prima during much of its recent illicit activity. Investigators said the vessel routinely engaged in deceptive shipping practices during the illegal activity, such as disabling its Automatic Identification System (AIS) and conducting the petroleum transfers at night and in a location known for sanctions evasions.
The ship also would take unnecessary detours to further hide its true destination or origin, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. has filed criminal charges against Kwek Kee Seng for violating trading restrictions with North Korea. He is currently wanted by the FBI.
As a result of the actions, any U.S.-based property or interests owned by Mr. Kwek or Mr. Chen, or the companies that were targeted, must be reported to the Treasury Department.