US Companies Under Sanctions for Shipping Oil to North Korean Ships at Sea

Following North Korea’s most recent missile launches this week, the US slapped fresh sanctions on Friday. These targeted a fuel supply chain that Washington claimed supports Pyongyang’s military and weapons programs. The United States Treasury Department said in a statement that the action on Friday was taken in an effort to hold North Korea responsible for ship-to-ship transfers that violate United Nations sanctions on the country.

Two Singapore-registered companies and a Marshall Islands-registered company were the targets of the action. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, said in a separate statement that by designating these entities and people, “the United States is sending a clear message that we will continue to take actions against those who support the development and sustainment of the DPRK’s military and weapons arsenal.”

A request for comment was not immediately answered by the North Korean mission to the UN in New York. The penalties were imposed after North Korea launched an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Tuesday, which led to joint missile drills by the United States and South Korea.

In reaction to the return of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the area and a U.N. Security Council meeting in response to the North’s recent launches, North Korea also launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean on Thursday, one of which was aimed towards Japan. These launches marked North Korea’s sixth ballistic missile test in the previous 12 days.

North Korea’s highly sophisticated missile and nuclear weapons programs have not been curbed by decades of U.S.-led sanctions, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown no interest in resuming the unsuccessful diplomatic course he took with former U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, the US charged China and Russia with supporting Kim by shielding Pyongyang from efforts to tighten sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The Treasury said it targeted Marshall Islands-registered company New Eastern Shipping Co Ltd., which Treasury said also has addresses in China and Singapore, as well as Kwek Kee Seng, headquartered in Singapore, Chen Shih Huan, based in Taiwan, and Kwek Kee Seng, based in Singapore.

They were charged with involvement in the ownership or management of a ship that took part in many shipments of refined petroleum to North Korea. The ship, according to Washington, engaged in “deceptive shipping tactics,” including ship-to-ship swaps with North Korean ships and at least one direct delivery.

Observers of UN sanctions have discovered that North Korea has regularly gotten around prohibitions on the transport of commodities like coal and oil, frequently by transferring from ship to ship at sea.

Anfasar Trading (S) Pte. Ltd. and Swanseas Port Services Pte. Ltd., both with Singaporean registrations and connections to Kwek, were also identified, according to Treasury.

A request for comment regarding the fines against the businesses or Kwek was not immediately answered by Swanseas Port Services or Anfasar Trading. New Eastern Shipping could not be reached for comment by Reuters right away.

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