Export Compliance

Heaviest sanctions clamped on North Korea as dozens added to OFAC screening watch lists

The U.S. has announced new sanctions against North Korea, adding 56 entities to watch lists maintained by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and freezing assets held by those entities in the United States.

The entities named—one individual, 27 shipping companies and 28 ships—allegedly aided the rogue Pyongyang regime circumvent existing U.S. and United Nations trade embargoes on North Korea. They operate in multiple countries including China, Singapore, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and Comoros, as well as North Korea.[i][ii]

The move is aimed at putting further pressure on North Korea to give up is program to develop weapons of mass destruction. President Trump described the latest sanctions as the “heaviest” ever, adding he hoped that “something positive can happen.”[iii]

The OFAC statement said that sanctions-busting tactics employed by the North Koreans consisted of engaging in ship-to-ship transfer of cargo (mainly in the Yellow Sea), falsifying cargo and vessel documentation, and disabling the ship’s automatic identification system to hide its location from authorities.

The individual named was a Taiwanese citizen living in Taiwan who had coordinated coal exports from North Korea. It is said that coal is Pyongyang’s principal commodity, which it sells on the black market to fuel its nuclear ambitions.

The advisory also warns U.S. citizens against helping Pyongyang in any way. For businesses, this means continuing to screen trade chain partners at home and abroad against OFAC watch lists, and denied and restricted parties lists and to make sure the lists they screening against to be up to date.

The OFAC statement reinforced that advisory by saying that “persons that violate U.S. sanctions with respect to North Korea can be subject to civil monetary penalties equal to the greater of twice the value of the underlying transaction or $289,238, per each violation.”


[i] Sanctions Risks Related to North Korea’s Shipping Practices. U.S. Department of Treasury. Advisory. https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Documents/dprk_vessel_advisory_02232018.pdf. Accessed February 26, 2018

[ii] Treasury Announces Largest North Korean Sanctions Package Targeting 56 Shipping and Trading Companies and Vessels to Further Isolate Rogue Regime. U.S. Department of Treasury. Press Release. https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0297. Accessed February 26, 2018

[iii] Trump announces new North Korea sanctions. CNN.com. Article. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/23/politics/donald-trump-north-korea-sanctions/index.html. Accessed February 25, 2018.


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