President Donald Trump ordered new economic sanctions Thursday against any bank or other company doing business with North Korea, in response to Pyongyang’s defiant nuclear program.
The move is designed to tighten the economic screws on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in hopes of halting his development of nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.
The president announced the order as he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
He said the order would help target individuals and companies doing business with Pyongyang. Specifically, he said it enhances the Treasury Department’s authority to target those conducting significant trade with the regime, including by sanctioning foreign banks.
“It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime,” Trump said.
He added, “Foreign banks will face a clear choice. Do business with the United States, or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed the president as he issued a warning to foreign banks at a news conference Thursday.
“Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both,” he said.
Mnuchin said the executive order authorizes the Treasury Department to suspend U.S. account access to foreign banks that knowingly facilitate “significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea.”
“For too long, North Korea has evaded sanctions and used the international financial system to facilitate funding for its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” Mnuchin said. “No bank in any country should be used to facilitate Kim Jong Un’s destructive behavior.”
According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the executive order issues a 180-day ban on vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea from visiting the United States.
It also allows for sanctions of those involved in the construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries in North Korea.
On the heels of giving a blistering speech before the U.N. General Assembly where the president blasted “rocket man” Kim Jong Un, Trump said Thursday that he seeks a “complete de-nuclearization” of North Korea.
“We cannot have this as a world body any longer,” he said.
Trump also praised China following reports that its banks are halting business with North Korea.
Chinese banks received a document Monday stating they should halt financial services and loans to new and existing North Korean customers as a result of strict U.N. sanctions passed earlier this month, a source told Reuters on Thursday.
“Our bank is fulfilling our international obligations and implementing United Nations sanctions against North Korea. As such, we refuse to handle any individual loans connected to North Korea,” the document reportedly said.
The move comes after repeated calls from the Trump administration for China to help isolate Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship.
“We appreciate it,” Trump said Thursday.
Trump kidded Moon about his use (or his interpreter’s use) of the word “deplorable.”
“That’s been a very lucky word for me and many millions of people,” Trump said.
During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump warned that the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies against a nuclear attack. But he held out hope that could be avoided through economic and diplomatic pressure.
Trump praised the U.N. Security Council for passing two recent resolutions against North Korea that the president called “hard hitting.” But he added additional measures would be necessary to rein in the North Korean leader.
“We must do much more,” Trump said. “It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.”
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