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U.S. blacklists small Chinese bank over North Korea dealings, announces new sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Reuters/KCNA

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration has blacklisted a small Chinese bank accused of illicit dealings with North Korea, escalating pressure to get Beijing to rein in its wayward ally, and it announced new sanctions targeting two Chinese citizens and one Chinese company.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that the Bank of Dandong "acts as a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity" and called it a "primary money-laundering concern." Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) proposes severing U.S. financial institutions from the Bank of Dandong, pending a 60-day review period. 

The U.S. also slapped sanctions Thursday on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese people that it says have facilitated illegal activities by North Korea.  

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) says that one Chinese citizen, Sun Wei, has been "closely aligned with" and running a cover company on behalf of North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank, FTB, which was already under U.S. sanctions for facilitating transactions "on behalf of North Korea's WMD proliferation network."

Another Chinese citizen, Li Hong Ri, is being sanctioned for cooperating with a Beijing-based official who had already been sanctioned for procuring items and conducting financial transactions on North Korea's behalf.

OFAC is also designating Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., Ltd. (Dalian Global Unity) for sanctions for operating in the transportation industry in the North Korean economy.  Dalian Global Unity, according to OFAC, transports coal and steel products between China and the North. And it's also said to be involved in luxury goods smuggling incidents. Dalian Global Unity employees "gave specific instructions about how shipments and transactions could evade the UN-mandated luxury goods ban," the Treasury Department said. 

The sanctions ban American individuals and companies from doing business with those identified in Thursday's announcement. Treasury's actions reflect growing U.S. frustration over China's efforts to enforce international sanctions intended to starve North Korea of revenue for its nuclear and missile programs.

Dandong is a northeastern Chinese city on the North Korean border and a gateway for trade with the isolated nation.