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US slaps new sanctions on North Korean, Chinese entities

FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a TV screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea. With all the verbal barbs flying between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump these days, China’s decision to send its most senior official to North Korea in more than two years could be a welcome opportunity to defuse the growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

The U.S. announced new sanctions against North Korean and some Chinese entities Tuesday, one day after declaring the nation a state sponsor of terrorism.

Among the entities are one individual, 13 companies and 20 vessels. The move is intended to impede the country's funding of its nuclear program.

“As North Korea continues to threaten international peace and security, we are steadfast in our determination to maximize economic pressure to isolate it from outside sources of trade and revenue while exposing its evasive tactics,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “These designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

Those affected are connected in some way to the North Korean transportation or trade industries. Whether involved in importation or exportation, their businesses serves the "property and interests in property of the Government of North Korea," according to a Department of the Treasury statement.

The Chinese parties include Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Ltd., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co., Ltd., and Dandong Hongda Trade Co. Ltd.

The three companies exported around $750 million worth of goods to and from North Korea between January 2013 and August 2017. These products included computers, coal, iron and other raw materials.

Also affected by the sanctions are various North Korean government agencies and six North Korean shipping and trading companies. Twenty of their vessels are now "blocked," in part due to the country's alleged tendency to employ "deceptive shipping practices," according to the statement.

These practices include ship-to-ship transfers. Such behavior can enable the vessels to evade sanctions.

Speaking Monday, Trump billed the sanctions as part of a "maximum pressure campaign" to implore North Korea to abandon its nuclear missile development. Experts say the nation, already subject to a wide range of U.S. sanctions, will likely become even more isolated as a result.

Though North Korea was once on the list of terrorism state sponsors, it was removed almost a decade ago in an effort to improve diplomatic relations. The attempt was largely unsuccessful, and the nation will now be returned to the ranks of countries like Syria, Sudan and Iran.

Speaking Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to imply the move does not eliminate the possibility of diplomatic negotiations. After discussing the topic of even greater sanctions, Tillerson said, "this is only going to get worse until [North Korea is] ready to come and talk."

However, the move is widely anticipated to heighten already sky-high tensions between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Since Trump took office, the pair has traded increasingly barbed criticisms; most recently, Trump wrote in a tweet that Kim was "short and fat."

The country's state news agency has already reacted to the designation, calling Trump a "heinous criminal" in a Tuesday editorial. While it did not mention the sanctions or designation specifically, it threatened the U.S. with "merciless punishment."

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