Yesterday, the Trump administration slapped a new round of sanctions on Chinese and Russian entities accused of aiding the North Korean nuclear program. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said it would target 10 entities and six individuals who help already sanctioned people to aid North Korea's missile program, or who "deal in the North Korean energy trade." Predictably, the Russian and Chinese government's were less than pleased, with spokespeople for both governments claiming the sanctions are illegitimate because they were not approved by the United Nations.
A representative for the Russian government meanwhile promised that a "response" is in the works," according to Russia Today.
Just like China, which immediately slammed the Trump administration, demanding that the "mistake" be fixed asap, the Russian government is just as angry with this latest round of sanctions and, as they have done many times in the recent past, the Russians threatened retaliation. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov issued a statement expressing disappointment, and warning Washington that Russia was working on a response.
“Against such a depressing backdrop, the lip service from American representatives about the desire to stabilize bilateral relations is extremely unconvincing,” Ryabkov said. “We have always and will always support resolving our existing differences through dialogue. In recent years, Washington in theory should have learned that for us the language of sanctions is unacceptable, and the solutions to real problems are only hindered by such actions. So far, however, there doesn’t seem to be an understanding of such obvious truths.
While the exact nature of the "inevitable response" has yet to be decided, Ryabkov said he hopes “our American colleagues” will soon understand the “futility” of using sanctions to prod the Russian government, or Russian entities, into cooperation.
“Nevertheless, we do not lose our hope that the voice of reason will sooner or later prevail, and that our American colleagues will be aware of the futility and detrimental nature of further sliding down the spiral of sanctions. “In the meantime, we are beginning to work out the inevitable response to this situation.”
The companies targeted by the sanctions include Gefest-M, a Moscow-based firm accused of acquiring metals on behalf of a North Korean company, and Mingzheng International Trading, a Chinese and Hong Kong-based bank that allegedly conducted transactions on behalf of North Korea. Andrey Klimov, a senior Russian senator, criticized the sanctions against Gefest-M and the other Russian entities as illegitimate.
“These sanctions are illegal in themselves, because the only thing recognized by international law is the sanctions of the UN Security Council,” Klimov told Interfax. “We must react in principle to this insane and confrontational policy. The toolbox is rich, let’s hope that we will act consistently, reasonably, professionally and effectively.”
The Chinese government appeared to echo Klimov’s words as a spokesperson said Beijing “opposes unilateral sanctions out[side] of the UN Security Council framework.”
“We strongly urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, so as not to impact bilateral cooperation on relevant issues,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by the Financial Times.
As part of the latest sanctions, the US DOJ filed complaints demanding that two Asian companies forfeit over $11 million for allegedly laundering funds for North Korea. The charge alleges that the two companies violated the international sanctions against North Korea and indirectly supporting its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
"The United States filed two complaints today seeking imposition of a civil money laundering penalty and to civilly forfeit more than $11 million from companies that allegedly acted as financial facilitators for North Korea."
Proceedings have been launched against Velmur Management Pte Ltd., based in Singapore, as well as the Chinese company Dandong Chengtai Trading Co. Ltd. The Trump administration has aggressively pursued sanctions as a cudgel in its battle to curb North Korea’s nuclear program. As tensions between Kim Jong Un and the US continue to escalate, expect more to come.