Citing Recent Launches, U.S. Sanctions Supporters of North Korean Missile Programs

North Korea has launched six ballistic missiles since September 

(Source: North Korean state media)

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Wednesday, January 12, 2022


A day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed a hypersonic missile launch, the U.S. sanctioned a number of people and a company supporting that country’s weapons programs.

The sanctions were in line with U.S. efforts to prevent the advancement of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and to impede attempts by Pyongyang to proliferate related technologies, the U.S. Treasury Department said. The U.S. remains committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea, but it will also continue addressing the threat posed by the weapons programs, the Treasury said.

“[North Korea’s] latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” said Brian Nelson, the undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. 

The latest missile launch, confirmed Tuesday in North Korean state media, was the first attended by Kim in two years, according to a report by the Pyongyang-focused outlet NK News. It marked the sixth launch since September 2021, each of which violated United Nations sanctions resolutions, the Treasury said. The launch this week also came hours after the U.S. and several of its allies had condemned another one from earlier this month.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was on hand this week for the first time in the observation area, a sign one expert said signals her growing influence in military affairs, NK News reported.

The five individuals sanctioned Wednesday by the Treasury were designated due to their support for, or employment at, the Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), an entity on the U.S. and U.N. sanctions lists for years. SANS has subordinate defense-related procurement and proliferation entities that it uses to obtain commodities and technology to support the North Korean defense research and development programs, the Treasury said.

SANS is also an alias of the North Korean Academy of National Defense Science, foreign representatives of which continued to import and export munitions materials while stuck abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a U.N. panel of experts report said last fall. 

North Korea’s pandemic response decimated its economy, Kharon reported in October 2021, citing findings from the U.N. panel’s report. (Pyongyang may re-evaluate its pandemic-related restrictions, NK News reported this week.)

The Academy of National Defense Science manages most procurement and export activities through overseas agents and front companies, according to a 2019 U.N. panel report.

Choe Myong Hyon, a Vladivostok, Russia-based representative of a SANS-subordinate organization, has worked to procure telecommunications equipment from Russia for North Korean companies, according to the Treasury. The four other representatives of SANS-subordinate organizations sanctioned Wednesday are based in China, the Treasury said. Three have worked to procure steel alloys, software, chemicals and other goods for North Korean entities, while the fourth is the deputy representative of a suspected cover company for a SANS-subordinate organization located in Dalian, according to the Treasury.

In addition, the U.S. State Department sanctioned a Russia-based North Korean national, a Russian national and the Russian company Parsek LLC for engaging in activity or transactions that contributed to weapons of mass destruction proliferation or delivery by North Korea.

Between at least 2018 and 2021, O Yong Ho procured aramid fiber, stainless steel tubes and ball bearings on behalf of the Rocket Industry Department, which is also known as the Ministry of Rocket Industry, a subordinate to the Munitions Industry Department (MID), according to the State Department. The MID is responsible for the development of the country’s missile development, and it was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2010 and the U.N. in 2016.

O worked with Roman Anatolyevich Alar and Parsek LLC to procure multiple goods with ballistic missile applications, the State Department said. Alar is Parsek’s director of development and provided O with instructions for creating solid rocket fuel mixtures, the State Department said.

“These designations convey our serious and ongoing concern about [North Korea’s] continued proliferation activities and those who support it,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

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