WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States tightened its economic crackdown on North Korea over its nuclear arms program on Wednesday, imposing sanctions on nine entities, 16 people and six ships it accused of helping Pyongyang develop weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. Treasury said it imposed sanctions on two China-based trading firms involved in exporting millions of dollars worth of metals and other goods used in North Korea's weapons industry.
The U.S. Treasury also imposed sanctions on officials belonging to the Workers Party of Korea who are operating in China, Russia and Georgia's Abkhazia region and urged those countries to expel the individuals.
"Treasury continues to systematically target individuals and entities financing the Kim regime and its weapons programs, including officials complicit in North Korean sanctions evasion schemes," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Mnuchin said the United States was targeting individuals in China, Russia and elsewhere and "calling for their expulsion from the territories where they reside."
"We are sanctioning additional oil, shipping, and trading companies that continue to provide a lifeline to North Korea to fuel this regime’s nuclear ambitions and destabilizing activities," Mnuchin added.
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control added 16 people to its list of specially designated nationals. It also listed nine entities, including the North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry, and six North Korean-flagged ships.
The action enables the United States to block any assets held by the individuals or firms in the United States and prohibits U.S. citizens from dealing with any of the listed companies or individuals, the Treasury said.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)