The Trump administration is imposing sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs.

The Treasury Department says the penalties are intended to further isolate North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests.

The 16 do business with previously sanctioned companies and people, work with the North Korean energy sector, help it place workers abroad or evade international financial curbs.

The measures block any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from transactions with them.

Those sanctioned include six Chinese companies, two Singapore-based companies that sell oil to North Korea, a Russian company, four Russian nationals and a construction company based in Namibia.

Source: The Associated Press

Analysis: The Trump administration continues to ramp up economic pressure on China, Russia, and anyone else who is assisting the North Koreans in any way, financially. Clearly, the White House believes that the best way to curb Pyongyang’s military ambitions is to starve the country of cash, and to do that the U.S. must turn the screws on those who perpetuate and enable the North Korean regime’s weapons programs.

But sanctions thus far have not prevented North Korea from advancing its missile and nuclear programs — or developing a cyber capability that truly does concern U.S. national security officials. However, some experts believe the additional financial pressure on China could finally outweigh Beijing’s ever-present concerns about what destabilizing the North Korean regime would look like, especially as China could face a number of financial crises in the coming months.

Beijing’s decision to begin enforcing some UN-imposed sanctions against North Korea, as it agreed to do, is not coming without some pushback — from Chinese business people and their workers directly affected by the government’s decision. The government said it plans to begin enforcing additional sanctions by banning the importation of North Korea coal, iron and lead ores and fish beginning next month. Ninety percent of North Korea’s trade economy goes through China. If the Chinese continue to seriously enforce the sanctions (Beijing has been lax about it in the past) it’s liable to create just the kind of destabilization of the North Korean regime Chinese leaders have always dreaded. 

If the Chinese continue to seriously enforce the sanctions (Beijing has been lax about it in the past) it’s liable to create just the kind of destabilization of the North Korean regime Chinese leaders have always dreaded. 

That said, the enforcement effort signals that Chinese leaders may be more concerned about the country’s overall economic growth (which depends on exports to the U.S.) than they are about a potential North Korean collapse. Either that or they know the North Koreans will find buyers for their goods on the Chinese black market, thus giving Beijing the appearance of complying with the UN sanctions it supported and the North Korean government much-needed cash.