US sanctions North Koreans over missiles

North Korea says it launched two strategic cruise missiles underwater from a submarine off Korea.

North Korea says it launched two strategic cruise missiles underwater from a submarine off Korea. Photo: AAP

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on three members of North Korea’s ruling party’s central committee for their involvement in the country’s ballistic missile program.

The Treasury Department announced it was targeting the director and vice-director of the Workers Party of Korea, Jon Il-ho and Yu-jin, respectively, along with another central committee member, Kim Su-gil, with asset freezes and bans on Americans conducting any type of business with them.

The latest sanctions follow a November 18 intercontinental ballistic missiles test by North Korea, part of a record-breaking spate of more than 60 missile launches this year, and amid concerns that it might be about to resume nuclear bomb testing suspended since 2017.

The three officials “played major roles” in North Korea’s development of weapons in violation of UN resolutions, the Treasury Department said in a statement, and “have personally attended numerous ballistic missile launches since at least 2017”.

The trio were penalised by the European Union in April and had been previously covered under existing US sanctions against the North’s ruling party.

The dozens of tests have included launches of ICBMs with a potential range to reach the US mainland and an intermediate-range missile flown over Japan.

Pyongyang has also conducted a barrage of short-range launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets as it reacted to the expansion of the allies’ combined military exercises, which North Korea insists are rehearsals for a potential invasion.

The North has punctuated the tests with threats of nuclear conflict with Washington and Seoul.

The parliament passed a law in September that authorised pre-emptive nuclear attacks in a broad range of scenarios, including non-war situations, where the country might perceive its leadership as under threat.

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