The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it is imposing sanctions on five North Korean officials in response to Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test. These officials are being penalized for their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs. In addition, the State Department has ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man, and a Russian company, owing to their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities.
After designations by Treasury and State earlier on Wednesday, the United States proposed UN sanctions in response to North Korea’s six ballistic missile launches since September. These were each in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted that night: “The Treasury’s moves came just hours after North Korea said leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw a successful flight test of a hypersonic missile.”
Treasury sanctions five North Koreans, one of which is based in Russia while the other four are based in China. They are all accused of providing money, goods, or services to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which Treasury says is heavily involved in its military defense programs.
The Treasury’s chief of terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said that the DPRK’s latest missile launches further prove that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization.
The sanctions prevent any assets the targets have in US jurisdictions from being frozen, bar Americans from doing business with them, and subject foreign companies and individuals to potential penalties for transactions with them. Shortly before the announcement, North Korea’s state news agency reported that the latest missile launch involved a hypersonic glide vehicle. After releasing the rocket booster, it demonstrated ‘glide jump flight’ and ‘corkscrew maneuvering’ before hitting a sea target 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away.
North Korea released photos of a missile launch that Kim Jong Un watched. The missile had a cone-shaped payload and left an orange trail behind it. This was North Korea’s second test of its purported hypersonic missile in a week. They first tested this type of weaponry in September. Kim Jong Un continues his push for nuclear weapons capabilities, despite difficulties with sanctions, the pandemic, and stalled diplomacy with the United States.
After its first nuclear test back in 2006, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea, becoming more challenging after further nuclear tests and an increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile program. In 2018, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that the sanctions had cut off all North Korean exports and 90% of its trade as well as disbanding the pool of workers which North Korea sent abroad to earn hard currency; however, Pyongyang has managed to evade some measures.
In November, the two countries circulated a draft resolution urging the Security Council to end sanctions against North Korea, which they argue are harming the civilian population. The resolution calls for an end to bans on exports of seafood and textiles, as well as caps on imports of refined petroleum products and a prohibition on North Koreans working overseas.
It is unclear whether China and Russia will support new sanctions on North Korea. As veto-wielding members of the Security Council, their votes could make or break any proposed measure.