WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) — The U.S. Treasury is taking an uncompromising approach to Chinese firms that are abetting North Korea‘s development of nuclear weapons.
Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury’s chief sanctions official, said Monday Washington is enforcing embargoes against a web of interlinked companies and operations, USA Today reported.
“Today’s action exposes a key illicit network supporting North Korea’s weapons proliferation,” Szubin said. “[Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. Ltd.,] and its employees sought to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions, facilitating access to the U.S. financial system by a designated entity. Treasury will take forceful action to pressure North Korea’s proliferation network and to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse.”
The company under sanctions, Hongxiang Industrial, is suspected of sending aluminum oxide to North Korea, which can be used in developing the centrifuges used in uranium enrichment, according to the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, D.C.
The United States is taking action against Hongxiang Industrial’s chief executive Ma Xiaohong, a 44-year-old businesswoman who founded the company in 2000.
The Treasury is also placing under sanctions three other employees at the company: Zhou Jianshu, Hong Jinhua, and Luo Chuanxu.
This is the first time the Treasury Department has placed Chinese firms under sanctions in connection to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The Treasury Department has already frozen the assets of the company, including 25 bank accounts and 21 alleged shell companies.
Ma conducted business with Pyongyang’s Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation and facilitated the circulation of North Korea’s U.S. dollar payments through the international banking system, according to U.S. officials.