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U.S. sanctions two more North Korean officials for ballistic missile program

The Trump administration announced sanctions Tuesday against two more North Korean officials for their alleged role in Pyongyang’s expanding ballistic missiles program.

The Treasury Department “is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate [North Korea] and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

The nuclear-armed country tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last month that U.S. officials said appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, a significant milestone in the country’s growing arsenal. 

The Treasury Department identified the two North Korean officials as Kim Jong Sik,  who “reportedly is a key figure” in the ballistic missile program and led efforts to switch missiles from liquid to solid fuel (which makes them easier to hide before launch), and Ri Pyong Chol, who was “reported to be a key official” in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

The sanctions block banks, companies and individuals from doing any business with the targeted officials. It also allows the U.S. government to freeze any American assets owned by the officials.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to add more sanctions on North Korea, its third round this year. The new measures order North Koreans working abroad to return home within two years, and ban nearly 90% of refined petroleum exports to the country. 

In a statement published Sunday by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, the foreign ministry denounced the new U.N. sanctions as “an act of war.”

“We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the US and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ‘resolution,'” it said. 

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