New sanctions amid denuclearization deadlock block labour exports . . .
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions Tuesday on Korea Namgang Trading Corporation (KNTC) and Beijing Sukbakso, two North Korea-associated entities that have allegedly facilitated the supply of illicit labour to overseas markets. More specifically, the Treasury said that KNTC exported workers abroad to generate income for the North Korean regime, and that Beijing Sukbakso, a lodging facility based in Beijing, supported KNTC’s operations. The new sanctions will freeze any U.S. assets of the blacklisted entities and ban Americans from doing business with them.
An important source of revenue for Pyongyang . . .
The Treasury noted that the continued export of North Korean workers violates UN Security Council Resolutions 2375 and 2397, which required all UN member states to expel all North Korean labourers by December 22, 2019. Prior to the introduction of these sanctions in 2017, it was estimated that North Korea had approximately 100,000 workers abroad, generating C$650 million per year for the cash-strapped regime. According to some reports, North Korean workers suffer from poor working conditions and do not receive adequate compensation for their labour, issues that were used to justify the UNSC sanctions.
Denuclearization dialogue on a hold . . .
The new sanctions are seen as an additional source of pressure by the U.S. on North Korea to find a breakthrough in their denuclearization negotiations, which have not made much progress. Despite the two meetings between Trump and Kim Jong-un in 2019, the two sides have failed to find a middle ground. While the U.S. has demanded complete, verifiable, and irreversible disarmament (CVID) in exchange for the withdrawal of economic sanctions, North Korea has insisted on a more gradual approach. The deadlock has led to more hostile rhetoric from Pyongyang – with resumed missile tests, and Kim warning that the regime would end the moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.
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