WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States blacklisted 23 North Korean companies and officials on Friday (Saturday in Manila), notably flag carrier Air Koryo, in response to the country’s September 9 nuclear test.
US President Barack Obama also on Friday moved to block a Chinese company’s purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron’s US business in the deal.
It follows the United Nations Security Council’s newest and toughest sanctions resolution against Pyongyang yet, aimed at increasingly isolating the Asian country politically and economically after its nuclear bomb test two months ago.
The US Treasury Department laid sanctions, which aim to lock companies and individuals out of the global financial system, on several North Korean banks, construction and trading companies, as well as an oil company.
New on the US sanctions list was Air Koryo, which the Treasury Department painted as a part of Pyongyang’s military network after one of its aircraft “undertook a fly-over in the Victory Day military parade” in July 2013.
The airline also transported spare parts or other items used in North Korea’s SCUD-B ballistic missile systems, and the country’s leader Kim Jong Un uses a private jet with the Air Koryo logo, the department said.
The Treasury Department said the new sanction designation would “block” Air Koryo’s 16 aircraft, though it did not respond to queries on what that meant specifically.
Air Koryo primarily flies domestically and to Beijing, the main hub for flying to and from the country.
The Treasury Department also blacklisted seven officials from government bodies and companies, all allegedly tied to government nuclear or weapons programs.
“From financial services to mining and energy, today’s action targets individuals and entities operating in key industries that support North Korea’s illicit activities,” said Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.
“Treasury will continue to use all of its financial tools to intensify the pressure on North Korea and those supporting the regime’s nuclear ambitions and WMD programs,” he added, referring to weapons of mass destruction.
Obama blocks deal
Obama has moved block a Chinese company’s purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of its US business in the deal.
The US Treasury Department said a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) chaired by Obama found the risks posed by the deal, which could place sensitive technology with potential military applications in Chinese hands, were too great.
“CFIUS and the president assess that the transaction poses a risk to the national security of the United States that cannot be resolved through mitigation,” the Treasury said in a statement.
It said publicly traded Aixtron SE’s expertise in technology key to making advanced compound semiconductors used for LED lighting, lasers and solar cells also has military applications.
Washington does not want to see such technology end up in the hands of the Chinese government-backed company that wants to buy Aixtron, Grand Chip Investment.
The Treasury said Aixtron’s US business is an important contributor to that technology.
In late October, the German government withdrew its initial approval for the 670 million euro ($714 million) takeover after Washington raised security concerns.