Russia and China have reacted strongly to new US sanctions targeting Chinese and Russian companies and individuals for allegedly “supporting” North Korea’s weapons program by doing business with the country.
The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed sanctions on six Chinese-owned firms, and one Russian, one North Korean, and two Singapore-based entities as well as six individuals —four Russians, one Chinese and one North Korean — for facilitating trade ties with Pyongyang.
The targeted firms and figures are accused of working with blacklisted individuals, assisting the development of the North Korean energy sector, helping it place workers abroad, or move money from abroad. Their US assets were frozen and Americans were barred from conducting business with them.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that it was “unacceptable” for the designated entities to “enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction.”
‘Russia preparing response’
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov reacted to the new US sanctions by expressing disappointment and warning Washington that Moscow was preparing a response.
“The lip service from American representatives about the desire to stabilize bilateral relations [with Russia] is extremely unconvincing,” Ryabkov said in a statement.
“In recent years, Washington in theory should have learned that for us, the language of sanctions is unacceptable, and the solutions to real problems are only hindered by such actions. So far, however, there doesn’t seem to be an understanding of such obvious truths,” he said.
“In the meantime,” he added, “we are beginning to work out the inevitable response to this situation.”
The Russian official also expressed hope that “our American colleagues will be aware of the futility and detrimental nature of further sliding down the spiral of sanctions.”
Russian Senator Andrey Klimov also reacted to the unilateral US sanctions by calling them illegitimate and urging due counteraction.
Saying that the only sanctions recognized by international law are the ones approved by the UN Security Council, he said, “We must react in principle to this insane and confrontational policy. The toolbox is rich; let’s hope that we will act consistently, reasonably, professionally and effectively.”
China says bilateral cooperation at stake
China, for its part, said that Washington should “immediately correct its mistake” of imposing unilateral sanctions on Chinese firms and individuals to avoid denting bilateral cooperation.
Beijing “opposes unilateral sanctions out[side] of the UN Security Council framework,” said a Chinese government spokesperson. “We strongly urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, so as not to impact bilateral cooperation on relevant issues.”
The US is opposed to the North Korean missile and military nuclear programs. Pyongyang says it needs them to deter potential US aggression.
Earlier this month, China and Russia had voted in favor of a US-drafted sanctions resolution against North Korea in a rare move that signaled willingness to cooperate with Washington.
Among the Chinese names targeted with the new sanctions are three coal companies, including one of the country’s largest importers, Dandong Zhicheng. The three firms are collectively responsible for having imported nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of North Korean coal between 2013 and 2016, the US Treasury Department claimed.
Moscow-based company Gefest-M was among the Russian entities singled out by the Treasury Department.