On January 21, the day after the Obama administration took office, the White House approved certain trade sanctions–initiated by the Bush administration–to be printed in the Federal Register. These sanctions targeted specific Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean companies that the US believes were/are violating arms export regulations governing missile technology and other proliferation activities. [Read more, including Federal Register text, here]
After North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in April, the US pushed the UN Security Council to adopt a presidential statement which blacklists several additional North Korean firms. [Read more here].
After North Korea conducted a second nuclear test, in violation of UNSC resolution, the UNSC adopted a resolution which tightened sanctions on the DPRK. [Read more here]
In June, the South Korean government imposed sanctions on these DPRK companies for the first time [Read more here]
The US followed up the UNSC resolution by announcing an inter-agency team that will focus exclusively on enforcing DPRK sanctions [Read more here]
Today, the US Treasury Department announced it was targeting Hong Kong Electronics (Kish Island, Iran) [from where a former FBI agent is still missing] for supporting the balcklisted North Korean organizations. According to Market Watch:
The Treasury Department said Tuesday that it has targeted another player in North Korea’s missile proliferation network. The agency designated Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. Those two firms have been targeted by the U.S. and the United Nations as part of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network. “Today’s action 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 Stuart Levy, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism.
What does this mean? It means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to the company must be frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the firm. This probably does not amount to much economically, but is probably intended to discourage banks outside of the US from doing business with these firms.
UPDATE 1: It looks like the State Departmet is also going after a North Korean company believe to be involved in weapons proliferation today. According to a statement by the Treasury Department:
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today targeted North Korea’s missile proliferation network by designating Hong Kong Electronics under Executive Order 13382. E.O. 13382 freezes the assets of designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with them, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, has been designated for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).
Tanchon and KOMID have also been designated by the United States under E.O. 13382 and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1718. The Department of State also today targeted North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network by designating Namchongang Trading Corporation (NCG), a North Korean nuclear-related company in Pyongyang, under E.O. 13382.
“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. “Today’s action 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.”
Since 2007, Hong Kong Electronics has transferred millions of dollars of proliferation- related funds on behalf of Tanchon and KOMID. Hong Kong Electronics has also facilitated the movement of money from Iran to North Korea on behalf of KOMID. Tanchon, a commercial bank based in Pyongyang, North Korea, is the financial arm for KOMID – North Korea’s premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
Tanchon plays a key role in financing the sales of ballistic missiles for KOMID. Tanchon has also been involved in financing ballistic missile sales from KOMID to Iran’s Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), which is the Iranian organization responsible for developing liquid-fueled missiles. SHIG has been designated under E.O. 13382 and sanctioned by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1737. Since 2005, Tanchon has maintained an active relationship with various branches of Iran’s Bank Sepah, an entity designated under E.O. 13382 and sanctioned by the United Nations under UNSCR 1747, for providing financial services to Iran’s missile program. The U.S. has reason to believe that the Tanchon-Bank Sepah relationship has been used for North Korea-Iran proliferation-related transactions.
Here is the press release by the State Department:
The U.S. Department of State today targeted North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network by designating Namchongang Trading Corporation (NCG) under Executive Order 13382. E.O. 13382 is an authority aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, and at isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. Entities designated under E.O. 13382 are prohibited from engaging in all transactions with any U.S. person and are subject to a U.S. asset freeze.
NCG is a North Korean nuclear-related company in Pyongyang. It has been involved in the purchase of aluminum tubes and other equipment specifically suitable for a uranium enrichment program since the late 1990s.
The Department of the Treasury also today designated Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). Tanchon and KOMID were designated by the United States under E.O. 13382 on June 28, 2005 and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1718 on April 24, 2009.
North Korea’s April 5, 2009 launch of a Taepo Dong-2 (TD-2) missile and May 25, 2009 nuclear test demonstrate a need for continued vigilance with respect to North Korea’s activities of proliferation concern. The designations add to continuing U.S. efforts to prevent North Korean entities of proliferation concern from accessing financial and commercial markets that could aid the regime’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them.