The US Treasury Department on Thursday slapped sanctions on a Chinese bank over illicit activities in North Korea, including facilitating the production of weapons of mass destruction. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) proposes severing US financial institutions from the Bank of Dandong, pending a 60-day review period.
Dandong - a northeastern Chinese city on the North Korean border - is a gateway for trade with isolated North Korea.
Sanctions were imposed on Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which ships coal and steel between China and North Korea, freezing any property or assets in the USA and prohibiting any US citizen from doing business with the company. 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'.
For months, former US officials and experts warned that President Donald Trump's plan to rely on China to pressure North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons was futile.
The moves come in response to North Korea's ongoing efforts to build missiles and its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Mnuchin said the Bank of Dandong will no longer be able to access the US financial system "either directly or indirectly" and called the action "very significant".
"We are in no way targetting China with these actions", Mnuchin said at a White House briefing on Thursday. A main focus of the coordination has been getting China to fully enforce global sanctions meant to starve North Korea of revenue for its nuclear and missile programs.
"At least I know China tried!"
The president was to meet for the first time Thursday with South Korea's new leader, President Moon Jae-in, who has long advocated outreach to North Korea.
The Treasury said the two individuals have been linked to front or cover companies on behalf of North Korean institutions.
Dalian Global Unity is reported to transport 700,000 tons of freight annually, including coal and steel products, between China and North Korea, Treasury said.
He says the U.S.is committed to cutting off all illegal funds to North Korea, which conducts 90 percent of its foreign trade through China.
At a recent summit in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China has a "diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region". Another individual, Li Hong Laughed, has been made to the index to have established several shell companies that cooperate with the representatives in Beijing of the bank of north-Korean Koryo Bank, already sanctioned by the u.s. Treasury. And it's also said to be involved in luxury goods smuggling incidents.