Trump Administration Announces 'Largest Ever' Sanctions on North Korea

UN to demand Syria ceasefire; Australian deputy resigns

Ivanka Trump is leading a United States delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in an effort to show a softer side of USA diplomacy on the peninsula while calling for maximum pressure to be put on North Korea.

The punitive measures, which follow multiple rounds of earlier sanctions, signal USA officials' determination to use financial pressure to prompt North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to relinquish nuclear weapons, and their concern that under-the-radar fossil fuel trade undermines their ability to do so.

"The North Korean shipping industry is a primary means by which North Korea evades sanctions to fund its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs", Treasury said in a notice Friday.

President Trump did not rule out a nuclear attack against North Korea Friday, vowing to take it to "phase two" if the most recent round of sanctions prove ineffective.

"We are aggressively targeting their ability to evade sanctions, while also significantly hindering the regime's ability to continue to conduct these illicit maritime activities that facilitate coal and fuel transport among others, in worldwide waters", the official said.

The Treasury Department says the shippers are participating in a complex scheme to help North Korea dodge United Nations restrictions against imports of refined fuel and exports of coal.

"Frankly, hopefully, something positive can happen", Trump said.

The Security Council unanimously voted to ban almost 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea, and order North Koreans who work overseas to return to the country within 24 months, on December 22.

In October the USA proposed eight ships for United Nations designation for smuggling banned cargo from North Korea.

One person, 27 companies and 28 vessels have been sanctioned, according to the Treasury Department.

The new measures, in addition to targeting North Korean entities, also hit Chinese companies that have been illegally aiding the Pyongyang.

"We are working on Russian Federation sanctions", Mnuchin said.

The announcement comes as South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics, an occasion the two Koreas have used as an opportunity to ease tensions and restart talks.

And for dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, the First Daughter donned an elegant black V-neck dress with textural detailing on the sleeves.

Significant advances in its missile and nuclear weapons programs have made North Korea the most pressing foreign threat facing the Trump administration.

Kim Yong Chol is the vice chairman of the North's ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee and was previously chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a top North Korean military intelligence agency that South Korea blamed for the sinking of its navy corvette, the Cheonan.

"Through today's actions, we are putting companies and countries across the world on notice", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

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