The US Treasury Department announced the sanctions on the Korea Namgang Trading Corp and China-based North Korean lodging facility Beijing Sukbakso. The move could complicate efforts to revive stalled talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
The department said the former entity had facilitated or been responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea to generate revenue for the North Korean government or governing party. It said the latter ran a China-based lodging facility to facilitate labour export.
“The exportation of North Korean workers raises illicit revenue for the government of North Korea in violation of UN sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions imposed on Monday freeze any US assets of the blacklisted entities and generally prohibit Americans from doing business with them. They come at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
Pyongyang has expressed frustration at what it calls Washington’s lack of flexibility in talks and warned that there were no longer grounds for it to be bound by a self-declared moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing.
US officials said North Korea must take more concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes before sanctions are eased.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful North Korea would make the right decision despite slow progress.
“The sanctions that we have put in place on North Korea along with the rest of the world … have certainly caused Chairman Kim to think seriously about the right path forward for his people,” he said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.