The United States said on Monday it has imposed sanctions on companies in North Korea, China and Iran for violating US law aimed at stopping the spread of missiles and other weapons technology.
The penalties were the first of their kind from the new US government and signal a willingness to continue the Bush administration's tough stance on weapons proliferation. The sanctions, while largely symbolic, come at sensitive time in two key US diplomatic efforts. The United States relies on Chinese leverage in international negotiations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. The Obama administration also needs the help of China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon. The sanctions bar the companies from trade with the United States that they were not likely involved in. The measures were in the works for some time, but Obama officials signed off on them after the new president took office and announced them in Monday's Federal Register.
The Obama administration is currently reviewing its North Korea policy, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks "essential." The United States heavily relies on China, the host of the negotiations and a country seen as having the most outside leverage with the North. Those talks are stalled, however, and tensions are rising on the Korean peninsula as the North makes increasingly bellicose threats since President Barack Obama's inauguration. Pyongyang on Monday pledged to maintain its atomic weapons and warned of a possible nuclear war. On Friday, the North said it would scrap all peace accords with Seoul.
The North Korean companies are Korea Mining and Development Corporation, Mokong Trading Corporation and Sino-Ki. The Iranian companies are Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group and Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group. The Chinese companies are Dalian Sunny Industries and Bellamax.