Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin announced Thursday that the U.S. has imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank, charging it with laundering money for North Korea and cutting it off from accessing the U.S. financial system.
In addition to blacklisting the Bank of Dandong, which the secretary labeled a “foreign financial institution of primary money laundering concern,” Mnuchin said the Treasury Department had also sanctioned two individuals from China, both with ties to previously sanctioned North Korean banks, as well as a Chinese company, Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co. Ltd.
“This bank has served as a gateway for North Korea to access the U.S. and international financial systems, facilitating millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Mnuchin said. “The United States will not stand for such action. This will require U.S. banks to ensure that the Bank of Dandong does not access the U.S. financial system directly or indirectly through other foreign banks.”
Mnuchin refused to detail the connection between the Chinese bank and the North Korean government, nor would he say whether or not the Chinese government had been given advance warning of the sanctions. But he took care to note that the sanctions were not directed specifically at the Chinese government.
“While today’s actions are directed at Chinese individuals and entities, we look forward to working closely with the government of China to stop illicit financing involving North Korea. We are in no way targeting China with these actions,” he said.
Amid a period of ramped-up missile testing and bellicose rhetoric from North Korea last spring, President Donald Trump said he would pursue cooperation from the Chinese government in corralling its southern neighbor. China has long been the North Korean regime’s chief international patron and by far its most lucrative trading partner, and Trump publicly committed to seeking China’s assistance in pressuring North Korea into ending its nuclear program.
But Trump seemed to throw cold water on that plan last week when he wrote on Twitter that “while I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” punctuating his post by writing, “at least I know China tried!”
On Thursday, Mnuchin said that despite the tweet, the president has not yet abandoned his goal of working with China to combat North Korea’s nuclear program.
“I don’t think the president is giving up in any sense. I think we will continue to work with China and everybody else,” Mnuchin said. “The president is firmly committed that we will cut the money off to North Korea until they behave properly.”