President Donald Trump announced Friday that the US Treasury Department is imposing new sanctions against North Korea specifically targeting the country's shipping and trading companies and vessels in an effort to further isolate the rogue regime.
Senior administration officials told reporters on Friday that Trump would discuss new sanctions on North Korea during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and touted the sanctions as the headline of the of the speech.
But it took the President nearly 80 minutes to mention the sanctions -- which he did only briefly -- at the end of his free-wheeling speech.
"North Korea, we imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed by our country before. And frankly, hopefully something positive can happen. We will see, but hopefully something positive can happen," Trump said. "That just was announced and I wanted to let you know."
In its latest step to heighten its economic warfare against North Korea, the US government imposed sanctions against 27 entities and 28 vessels either registered or flagged in several countries, including North Korea, China and Singapore.
In a statement on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US is "aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea's behalf."
Sixteen North Korean shipping companies were sanctioned including Chonmyong Shipping Company Limited, Hapjanggang Shipping and Korea Achim Shipping Co.
Nine international shipping companies and nine vessels were also added to the US sanctions list: Asia Bridge 1, Hao Fan 2 and Xin Guang Hai. Along with international companies such as Shandong, China-based Weihai World-Shipping Freight and Shanghai, China-based Shangahi Dongfeng Shipping Co. Ltd.
The US government also labeled a Taiwanese citizen, Tsang Yung Yuan, who has coordinated North Korea coal exports with a Russia-based North Korean broker. Tsang has a record of sanctions evasion activities, according to Treasury.
Treasury, along with the State Department and US Coast Guard, also warned the public of significant sanctions they could face if they help to enable any shipments to goods to and from North Korea in an advisory.
The agencies also alerted those industries of North Korea's deceptive shipping practices.
"The President has made it clear to companies worldwide that if they choose to help fund North Korea's nuclear ambitions, they will not do business with the United States," Mnuchin said.
North Korea has been known to falsify and conceal information displayed on North Korean vessels and conduct ship-to-ship transfers, currently prohibited by the United Nations.
While these sanctions solely focus on "elicit maritime activity," administration officials made it clear that they are part of the maximum pressure campaign aimed at denuclearization.
The point of these sanctions, an official said, is not just to punish the rouge nation, but to raise "the cost of doing business with North Korea" for other countries.
"The President is clearly frustrated, and rightly so, over efforts that have failed in the past and also over the uptick in testing and the advancements we have seen in the North Korean program in the recent period of time and over the last couple of decades," an official said.
The announcement comes while the President's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump is in South Korea for the closing days of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
According to Mnuchin, she briefed South Korean President Moon Jae-in about the new North Korea sanctions.
"Ivanka Trump has been briefed on this," Mnuchin said. "She has been part of the team. She had dinner with President Moon and had a private discussion in advance about this occurring and this has been an interagency process."
Asked if she had the appropriate security clearance, Mnuchin said, "She has the appropriate access to brief the president."
During a pre-dinner briefing with Moon, Ivanka said her visit was to "reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized." She added that discussions with South Korea would touch on "joint values and strategic cooperation as partners and allies."
During the dinner, President Moon said that the denuclearization dialogue and the inter-Korean dialogue on the Korean Peninsula cannot go separately, and this process should progress hand-in-hand, according to Yoon Young-chan, a spokesperson for the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
Moon also said it is important for South Korea and the US to cooperate closely, the spokesperson said.
Moon said North Korea's participation in the Olympics was an "opportunity" for inter-Korean dialogue, which had "led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations."
He also thanked "President Trump's strong support for inter-Korean dialogue."
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