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Trump administration announces 'largest' North Korea sanctions

Trump administration announces 'largest' North Korea sanctions

"We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before", Trump told the gathering.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control described the move as the largest North Korea-related sanctions action yet, in the ongoing USA "maximum pressure campaign" to force Pyongyang to relinquish its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Instead, the ships and companies blacklisted Friday are from North Korea, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama, and Comoros - and the one individual is a Taiwanese businessman.

The announcement comes while the President's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump is in South Korea for the closing days of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"Under current hard circumstances, we have chose to focus on whether peace on the Korean peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations can be derived from dialogue with (the visiting North Korean officials), not on their past or who they are", said Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun.

The latest designations are primarily meant to crack down on North Korea's evasion of wider-ranging sanctions adopted by the United Nations Security Council and the United States that are more economically significant.

North Korea athletes joined with those from the South during the games in a sign of easing tensions.

The announcement named nine worldwide shipping companies and nine of their vessels, including some based or flagged in China, the Comoros, and Panama.

But were the Treasury Department designations of more than 50 companies and ships accused of illicit trading with the pariah nation really the toughest action yet by the USA and the wider world? The sanctions were not ready in time to be unveiled on Pence's trip to Japan and South Korea ahead of the Winter Olympics, according to Mnuchin.

Trump was speaking at a news conference Friday alongside Australia's prime minister.

The officials called it "the largest-ever sanction tranche" aimed at disrupting illicit maritime activity related to North Korean smuggling.

The point of these sanctions, an official said, is not just to punish the rouge nation, but to raise "the cost of doing business with North Korea" for other countries.

It has been more than two months since North Korea's last missile test. "Of course they aren't happy when we designate Russian entities".

Moon also said it is important for South Korea and the USA to cooperate closely, the spokesperson said.

The US has been building sanctions against the regime since 2008 and the latest restrictions could come on top of sanctions announced in November - directed at North Korean shipping operations, as well as Chinese companies trading with Pyongyang. The administration is accusing the entities of transferring coal or oil either directly to North Korea or to other ships with the intent of getting the supplies into North Korea as a final destination, in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

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