By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions against North Korea on Thursday, critically blocking individuals, companies and financial institutions from doing business with that country.
Foreign banks now face a “critical choice”: either do business with the United States, or North Korea, Trump told reporters during a luncheon with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
China’s central bank informed the country’s banks to “immediately stop doing business with North Korea”, Trump said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin later told reporters he believes the announcement was prompted by an earlier telephone call he had with People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, in which he informed Zhou of the looming penalties.
Still, he stressed the move was “in no way specifically directed at China, and we look forward to working with them.”
As North Korea’s largest trading partner, the move by China is a major blow to the reclusive nation that finds itself even more isolated from the global economy as its already moribund financial system continues to struggle from years of sanctions.
“It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said. “The order enhances the Treasury Department’s authorities to target any individual or entity that conducts significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea.”
Additionally, vessels and aircraft that visit North Korea will face a 180-day ban from visiting the U.S. The ban is also applied to ships that receive cargo from a vessel that visited North Korea within 180 days, according to a fact sheet from the White House.
Abe welcomed the new economic measures by stressing in translated remarks that Tokyo, Washington and Seoul will be unified in response to North Korea “so that we will move toward the abandoning of nuclear weapons and North Korea’s nuclear program.”
During his first address before the world body earlier this week, Trump struck a militant tone on Pyongyang, saying if the U.S. is forced to protect the homeland or its allies Washington “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
The North carried out its sixth nuke test Sept. 3, drawing a ninth UN Security Council resolution since 2006.
South Korea responded positively to Trump’s terse warning to its neighbor, with Seoul’s presidential office calling it a “firm and specific stance.”
In the wake of repeated North Korean missile launches and latest nuclear test, Trump referred to leader Kim Jong-un as a “rocket man on a suicide mission.”
While the U.S. president hopes a military attack would not be necessary as the UN aimed to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon development through economic sanctions, Kim’s regime is likely to be riled by the threat and lack of respect.