UNITED STATES NEWS

US sanctions North Korean couple accused of helping to procure equipment for ballistic missiles

Jun 15, 2023, 8:46 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions on a North Korean husband and wife living in Beijing accused of helping to procure equipment for ballistic missiles that ended up in the hands of North Korean and Iranian customers.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Choe Chol Min and his wife Choe Un Jong work through North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences, a state organization that conducts research for the nation’s ballistics missiles program, to help procure equipment for buyers.

Treasury says Choe Chol Min worked with North Korean weapons trading officials to buy equipment for Iranian customers. His wife is accused of coordinating at least one order for dual-use bearings that are used in North Korean ballistic missile production.

The isolated Asian nation uses a network of representatives in foreign countries, including China and Iran, to illegally import restricted materials used to create ballistic missiles and other weapons in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Treasury said.

Tensions have risen in past months as the pace of North Korean weapons tests and U.S.-South Korea military exercises has increased.

North Korea has test-fired about 100 missiles since the start of 2022, and South Korean and U.S. troops recently ended a fifth round of large-scale live-fire drills near the Koreas’ border on Thursday.

In May, a North Korean long-range rocket carrying its first spy satellite crashed off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast. On Thursday the nation conducted its first missile tests since that failure, launching two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters.

Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said North Korea’s development of its missile program — “even Pyongyang’s recent failed military satellite launch – continues to threaten regional and international security.”

“The United States is committed to targeting the regime’s illicit procurement networks that feed its weapons programs,” Nelson said.

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US sanctions North Korean couple accused of helping to procure equipment for ballistic missiles