Mnuchin Announces Sanctions on Chinese Bank Over North Korea

'We are committed to targeting North Korea's eternal enablers, ' he said, 'and maximizing economic pressure on the regime, until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic missile programs'. President Donald Trump has been leaning on China to use its influence as North Korea's main trading partner but has expressed some frustration recently with a lack of progress.

"The Department of the Treasury is committed to protecting the US financial system from North Korean abuse and maximizing pressure on the government of North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Although Trump's treasury secretary said the move didn't target China, it comes a week after the president lamented that China's promise to help with North Korea 'has not worked out'.

While the individuals and institution designated in Thursday's actions are Chinese, Mnuchin emphasized that the sanctions were meant to target North Korea, not Beijing.

Treasury also slapped sanctions on two Chinese individuals and one Chinese company.

China, which borders North Korea and is considered its only major ally, argues that negotiations are the best way to persuade it to halt its nuclear and missile activities.

Mnuchin said this is part of its efforts against North Korea.

The Trump administration is increasing pressure on Chinese financial players amid growing tension with North Korea.

The issue also returned to the fore amid renewed attention to the North Korean regime's activities following the release and subsequent death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who fell into a coma during his year-long imprisonment in North Korea.

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Qatar has denied those assertions and countered that the moves are a play by the Saudis to dominate its neighbors. The decision could jeopardize a $110bn arms deal that Mr Trump announced with Saudi Arabia in May.

In the recent past, the threat of U.S. sanctions was enough to compel China to curb much of its cyber espionage against the US.

"The campaign is only now really gathering momentum", the official said.

The two Chinese nationals are Wei Sun, who is being sanctioned for links to the Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Hong Ri Li, for his links to North Korean banking executive Song-hyok Ri. "We continue to work with them", he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping must be judicious as he chooses how to respond to Trump's actions.

All roads appear to lead to China.

The sanctions come as the USA pushes for China, North Korea's largest trading partner, to exert more pressure on Pyongyang.

"This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China", Mnuchin told reporters.

"If Trump wants to get serious about applying greater pressure on North Korea, at this point that will require a more coercive attitude toward China", Ratner said.

  • Megan Austin