US tightens sanctions on N. Korean shipping


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Trump administration escalated pressure on North Korea on Friday by slapping sanctions on scores of companies and ships accused of illicit trading with the pariah nation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. has now blacklisted virtually all ships being used by the North.

The administration billed it as the largest installment of North Korean economic restrictions to date as it intensifies its campaign of “maximum pressure” to get the North to give up its nuclear weapons. President Donald Trump went further, declaring in a speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that it was “the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before.”

While that claim was questionable – previous U.S. measures have targeted bigger players in the North Korean economy, including Chinese and Russian business networks – it significantly tightens the noose on North Korean trading. Mnuchin told reporters that the U.S. has now imposed more than 450 sanctions against the North, about half of them in the last year – including “virtually all their ships that they’re using at this moment in time.”

Trump, who has vowed to use force if necessary to prevent North Korea acquiring a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the U.S. mainland, warned that if sanctions don’t work, the U.S. would move to “phase two” in its pressure campaign against Pyongyang. He did not elaborate.

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