Trump announces new sanctions on N Korea

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The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president will lay out the case for stronger sanctions Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The U.N. Security Council banned North Korean exports of coal last August 5 under sanctions meant to cut off an important source of the foreign currency Pyongyang needs to fund its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The Treasury Department said it was barring USA business transactions with nine worldwide shipping companies from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Panama, and nine of their vessels.

The announcement comes as South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics, an occasion the two Koreas have used as an opportunity to ease tensions and restart talks.

In December the United States proposed 10 ships for blacklisting, the committee agreed to the designated four, while diplomats said China objected listing the remaining six.

"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 effort marks the largest package of sanctions issued yet against the country, a senior White House official said earlier Friday. Those weapons pose an emerging threat to the US mainland. Most of the named ships and companies were based in North Korea but some are based in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Panama, Tanzania, the Marshall Islands and Comoros.

The sanctions target ships, companies and one individual involved in schemes created to evade already-existing sanctions on illicit cargo, including fuel.

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Mnuchin said at least one person on the list of oligarchs close to the Kremlin had already been targeted under a separate US sanctions program.

"We had a very productive discussion on North Korea".

"This will significantly hinder the Kim regime's capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities", said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Officials called the move a "critical part of our maximum-pressure campaign" to push the North Korean regime to abandon both the possession and development of nuclear weapons.

The US and its allies say the illegal ship-to-ship transfers at sea of oil and coal have enabled the North to blunt the impact of the sanctions on its economy.

Despite Trump putting Russia on notice last month, there are no Russian entities on Friday's list either.

Kim said he wants to boost the "warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue" with South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, after a high-level delegation, including his sister, returned from the Olympics. She is slated to attend the Olympics closing ceremony and had dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"I've known the Prime Minister a very long time, he's trying to focus on a very similar take on economic agenda to what we've done", Mr Mnuchin said.

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