US Targets Chinese Bank, Company and 2 Citizens Over North Korea Ties

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced sanctions imposed Thursday on a small Chinese bank in order to maximize pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons programs

The statement quoted U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as saying that the steps were taken as part of efforts to maximize pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons programs.

"We are in no way targeting China with these actions", Mnuchin said at a White House briefing Thursday.

He accused the "bank of laundering money for Pyongyang".

Mnuchin said cutting off the flow of money was "very effective" in bringing Iran to the negotiating table and the U.S.is seeking to do the same with North Korea.

The Trump administration is increasing pressure on Chinese financial players amid growing tension with North Korea.

"The administration is right to target any around the world who act as financial lifelines to Kim Jong-un, and to give them a clear choice: You can do business with North Korea or with the U.S., but not both", said Royce in a statement.

Among them: severing USA financial ties with China's Bank of Dandong, which the administration claims acts as a pipeline to support alleged illicit North Korean financial activity.

But US officials have been playing down the idea that Washington and Seoul are at odds over their approach, with a senior administration official insisting Thursday they "share precisely the same goal, which is the complete dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs".

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The Treasury also slapped sanctions on two Chinese individuals and one Chinese company.

"While todays actions are directed at Chinese individuals and entities, we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government of China to stop illicit financing involving North Korea". This action freezes the entire bank out of the United States financial system.

"While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out", Trump tweeted on June 20.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker emerged from a meeting Wednesday with the administration's special representative for North Korea policy sensing that the administration was readying sanctions against China.

Another Chinese citizen, Li Hong Ri, is being sanctioned for cooperating with a Beijing-based official who had already been sanctioned for procuring items and conducting financial transactions on North Korea's behalf.

China has a strategic interest in keeping North Korea stable, in part because it acts as a buffer against having rivals like South Korea and the United States right at its border, and in part because it fears that instability or regime collapse could lead to a massive influx of refugees pouring over the border into China. But Mnuchin said the action was not being done to send China a message.

Chinese President Xi Jinping must be judicious as he chooses how to respond to Trump's actions.

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