US sanctions five North Koreans linked to missile programme

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) speaks with military officials during an observation of what state media says is a hypersonic missile test-fire conducted by the Academy of Defence Science at an undisclosed location in North Korea. KCNA VIA KNS/AFP

The US imposed sanctions on January 12 on five North Koreans linked to the country’s ballistic missile programme, a day after Pyongyang carried out what it said was the launch of a hypersonic missile.

The Treasury Department said the five North Koreans being sanctioned were “responsible for procuring goods for the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile-related programmes.”

“Today’s actions, part of the US’ ongoing efforts to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, target its continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

The latest launches “are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programmes despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said.

North Korean state media reported on January 12 that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, personally oversaw the successful test of the hypersonic missile, the second such launch by the nuclear-armed nation in less than a week.

State news agency KCNA said the most recent test demonstrated “the superior manoeuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle.” It claimed it hit a target some 1,000km away.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions follow the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s “six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which violated multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions”.

“The United States remains committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK, but will continue to address the threat posed by the DPRK’s unlawful weapons programmes to the United States and the international community,” it said.

The Treasury Department said one of the North Koreans being sanctioned, Choe Myong Hyon, was based in Russia and had provided support to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), which is already subject to sanctions.

Also targeted were four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-subordinate organisations, the Treasury Department said: Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol.

In a related action, Treasury said the Department of State had designated another North Korean, O Yong Ho, a Russian national, Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and a Russian company, Parsek LLC, for having “materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery by [North Korea].”

The Treasury move prohibits any dealings by US nationals with the designated individuals and foreign companies that engage with them could also be subject to sanctions.