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US slaps sanctions on companies in China, Singapore, and Russia for trading with North Korea

The U.S. announced on Wednesday that it would be imposing sanctions on shipping companies from Singapore, Russia, and China for continuing to trade with North Korea. A fully loaded container vessel waits outside a container terminal in Singapore on Feb. 9, 2017. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it would be slapping sanctions on a Chinese trading firm, that firm's Singapore-based affiliate, and a Russian port-service agency.

According to the department's news release, the companies targeted had been selling alcohol and tobacco to North Korea, in violation of U.N. sanctions. This illicit tobacco trade alone was worth $1 billion.

What did the statement say?

“Treasury will continue to implement existing sanctions on North Korea, and will take action to block and designate companies, ports, and vessels that facilitate illicit shipments and provide revenue streams to the DPRK,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “The tactics that these entities based in China, Singapore, and Russia are using to attempt to evade sanctions are prohibited under U.S. law, and all facets of the shipping industry have a responsibility to abide by them or expose themselves to serious risks.  Consequences for violating these sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

The sanctions target China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co., Ltd., that company's Singapore-based affiliate SINSMS Pte. Ltd., and Russia-based Profinet Pte Ltd. Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov, the Director General of Profinet was also hit by sanctions.

Under the terms of the sanctions, U.S. citizens are banned from doing any business with Dalian Sun Moon Star, SINSMS, Profinet, or Kolchanov. United States citizens are prohibited from doing business with any property belonging to these companies and Kolchanov currently on U.S. soil.

The news release also warned other companies and nations around the world "of the significant risks posed by North Korea’s shipping practices."

What do China and Russia think about the sanctions?

In a statement of its own, China's foreign ministry denied that it had ever violated the sanctions, and criticized the U.S. for “enacting unilateral sanctions on other countries.”

China's state news agency, Xinhua, said that the United States's tough stance on trade with North Korea “is not in keeping with the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and it needs to consider easing sanctions.”

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, accused the U.S. of acting without any evidence. He also said that Russia was considering retaliatory measures against the U.S. in response to these sanctions.

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