The U.N. Security Council ordered all countries Wednesday to freeze the assets of three North Korean state-owned companies to punish Pyongyang for its failed rocket launch last month.
The April 13 long-range launch, which Pyongyang called a failed attempt to put a satellite into space, violated earlier Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from engaging in nuclear and missile activity. The rocket broke into pieces shortly after liftoff.
The Security Council's committee that monitors sanctions against North Korea approved the sanctions Wednesday and ordered all countries to freeze the assets of the three companies. The European Union, U.S., Japan and South Korea proposed additional entities for sanctions, but the committee acts by consensus and China, North Korea's closest ally, only approved the three companies.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters the three companies are "very much involved in ... illicit missile and nuclear programs."
The three sanctioned companies _ Green Pine Associated Corporation, the Amroggang Development Banking Corporation and The Korea Heungjin Trading Company _ play a role in financing, exporting and procuring weapons, the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said in a statement.
Green Pine is responsible for about half of the arms and weapons exported by North Korea, the U.S. statement said. Amroggang Development Banking is managed by Tanchon Commercial Bank, which is "the main North Korean financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles and goods related to the assembly and manufacturer of such weapons," the statement added. It described Korea Heungjin as a trading company that has been used to procure an advanced digital controller with applications in missile design.
Rice said the sanctions committee also approved additional items and technology that are prohibited for transfer to or from North Korea on two key lists dealing with missiles and nuclear-related material, and approved a new work plan for the committee's panel of experts aimed at intensifying efforts to monitor and improve the implementation of sanctions.
The Missile Technology Control Regime, a group of 34 countries, monitors the transfer of missile equipment, material and related technologies that can be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction. The Nuclear Suppliers Group comprises countries that have established export rules to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Both list items banned for export; they were last updated in 2009.
"The committee's package of new measures constitutes a serious and credible response to North Korea's provocation," Rice said in a statement. "These measures will increase North Korea's isolation and make it harder for Pyongyang to move forward with its illicit programs."
The Security Council unanimously approved a presidential statement on April 16 strongly condemning the failed rocket launch. The council gave the sanctions committee, which includes all 15 council members, 15 days to prepare new additions for the sanctions list.
The European Union proposed about 40 additions to the sanctions and the missile and nuclear lists, and the United States, Japan and South Korea also submitted lists, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks have been private.
China did not respond until just before the deadline Tuesday night, and approved sanctions against the three companies and updates to the two lists, the diplomats said.
It was third time in six years that the Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea. The council blacklisted eight entities _ six trading companies, a bank and the General Bureau of Atomic Energy _ and five individuals after North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.