US sanctions against Asian companies over North Korean fuel deliveries

New Delhi: Amid increasingly aggressive North Korean missile launches this week, the US on Friday imposed sanctions on people and companies in Asia accused of helping North Korea obtain fuel in violation of UN sanctions.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted two people and three companies from Singapore, Taiwan and the Marshall Islands.

The US accused them of transporting fuel through an “illegal ship-to-ship transfer” that circumvents United Nations sanctions restricting imports of petroleum products and aids the development of North Korea’s weapons programs and military.

The sanctions are the first against the isolated Asian country since the start of the most recent round of missile launches, six rounds of testing in less than two weeks.

North Korea also flew 12 warplanes near the border with South Korea on Thursday, prompting the South to scramble 30 military planes in response, Seoul officials said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said North Korea will “continue its unprecedented pace, scale and scope of ballistic missile launches this year,” adding that it has launched 41 ballistic missiles this year alone.

Tensions have quickly mounted on the Korean peninsula as North Korea’s recent missile tests prompted South Korea, the US and Japan to conduct joint exercises in response.

The sanctioned companies are Marshall Islands-based New Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd. and Singapore registered Anfasar Trading (S) Pte. Ltd. And Swanseas Port Services Pte. Ltd. The US also turned to Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng and Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan to coordinate deliveries.

Among other things, the sanctions deny them access to property or financial assets held in the US and prevent US companies and people from doing business with them.

Brian Nelson, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said North Korea’s ballistic missile launches “show continued disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

The United States will continue to impose multilateral sanctions and the DPRK’s efforts to circumvent sanctions globally, including by identifying those who support these activities.

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