US President Donald Trump on Friday imposed the 'heaviest-ever' sanctions on North Korea's shipping companies in a bid to prevent the reclusive nation from acquiring nuclear weapons and developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Trump in his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference said he hoped "something positive" will come out of the latest round of tough sanctions.
"North Korea - we imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before," he said. "But hopefully something positive can happen.
But that just was announced, and I wanted to let you know we have imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed," Trump said soon after the Department of Treasury announced a series of tough sanctions.
"This action targets the deceptive shipping practices that have enabled the Kim regime to fund its dangerous weapons programmes," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at a White House news conference.
The latest American actions target shipping and trade companies, vessels and individuals across the world who are working on North Korea's behalf, he said.Mnuchin said the sanctions were against 27 entities, 28 vessels and one individual and added that all of them were involved in sanctions evasion schemes.
These shipping and trade companies, vessels and one individual, totaling 56 designations are located, registered or flagged in countries all over the world, including North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and Comoros, he said.
"This actions will significantly hinder North Korea's ability to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and limit the regime's ability to ship goods through international waters," Mnuchin said.
The American action is part of the ongoing maximum economic pressure campaign to cut off sources of revenue that the North Korean regime derives from the UN and US prohibited trade to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, he added.
The US is also issuing a global shipping advisory in conjunction with the Coast Guard and the State Department to put everyone on notice of North Korea's illicit maritime tactics and underscore the significant sanctions risk of engaging in maritime business with North Korea, Mnuchin said.
"We are releasing new imagery of the deceptive shipping practices used by those who aid and profit from illicit trade with North Korea.
"These images from December 2017 reveal ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other products destined for North Korea in an attempt to evade sanctions," he said.Mnuchin said the sanctions shine a spotlight on the practices employed by the government of North Korea to falsify identifying information on ships, and conceal illicit cargo.
These sanctions evasion tactics are prohibited by the UN Security Council resolutions and we are fully committed to shutting down those who engage in trade with them, he asserted.
"Through today's actions, we are putting companies and countries across the world on notice that this administration views compliance with US and UN sanctions as a national security imperative. Those who trade with North Korea do so at their own peril," Mnuchin said.
The Treasury Secretary warned that the countries who do business with North Korea will not be able to do business with the US.
A senior administration official told reporters that these designations are a critical part of the US' maximum pressure campaign to diplomatically and economically isolate North Korea.
"These actions represent the latest development in the coordinated, whole-of-government US effort to disrupt, deter and dismantle North Korea's illicit maritime shipping activities that Pyongyang uses to skirt UN sanctions, and to fund its WMD programmes and delivery systems," the official said.