President Trump's Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Russian-based company Thursday for aiding North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
"The United States will continue to target individuals and entities responsible for financing and supporting North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and will continue to increase pressure on this hostile regime," said John Smith, director of the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. "Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea's destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources."
North Korea's weapons program looms as one of the top national security priorities for the Trump administration due to a flurry of weapons program and ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions designations are in line with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's promise that the United States will punish countries and entities that refuse to implement international sanctions against North Korea.
"OFAC designated Moscow-based Ardis-Bearings LLC and its director, Igor Aleksandrovich Michurin, pursuant to E.O. 13382 for their support to Tangun, [which provides equipment for the WMD program]," the Treasury Department noted. "Ardis-Bearings LLC is a company that provides supplies to Tangun, and Michurin is a frequent business partner of Tangun officials in Moscow."
The Russian company was targeted alongside an official based in China who facilitates financial transactions on behalf of the regime, as well as other entities involved in the weapons program and other North Korean economic industries. The designations follow Tillerson's announcement of a "new pressure campaign" in April, despite resistance from China.
"I realize some nations for which a relationship with North Korea has been in some ways a net positive may be disinclined to implement the measures of pressure on North Korea, but the catastrophic effects of a North Korean nuclear strike outweigh any economic benefits," Tillerson said.
Treasury's announcement comes as Russian officials are fuming about the sanctions then-President Barack Obama imposed in December in response to the Russian-linked cyberattacks against the Democratic Party. Russia has denied involvement in the attacks and protested the loss of two facilities in the United States. "This issue is slowly shifting to the field of compensation for the damage," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Trump's team is mulling whether or not to return the facilities, which Obama said were used by Russian spies, to the Russian government.