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New US sanctions target North Korean military finances

FILE PHOTO: The U.S Treasury building in Washington.

(Reuters) -The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions on six individuals and two entities based in Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of channeling funds to North Korea's weapons programs.

South Korea, a U.S. ally, also imposed sanctions on four of the same six individuals and the two entities.

A U.S. Treasury Department statement and South Korea's foreign ministry said the action was taken in coordination between the two countries.

It named the six individuals as Yu Pu Ung, Ri Tong Hyok, Han Chol Man, O In Chun, Jong Song Ho and Jon Yon Gun.

The entities to be hit with sanctions were Alis LLC, based in Vladivostok, Russia, and UAE-based Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate.

The statement said both firms were subordinate to Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Co, an entity associated with North Korea's armed forces.

Seoul's foreign ministry said the sanctions target not only individuals directly involved but also those who aided North Korea's illegal financial activities, particularly those earning foreign currency in the information technology sector abroad.

Yu Pu Ung, who laundered money and supplied sensitive materials used to develop North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, was responsible for managing the funds, the ministry said in a statement.

The Treasury Department said Chinyong, which was placed under U.S. sanctions in May 2023, uses a network of companies and representatives to manage delegations of North Korean IT workers operating in Russia and Laos.

The announcement came after the United States and South Korea this week launched a new task force aimed at preventing North Korea from procuring illicit oil, as a deadlock at the United Nations Security Council casts doubts over the future of international sanctions on Pyongyang.

Years of U.S.-led international sanctions have failed to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, and many North Korea watchers and sanctions experts consider the U.N. regime moribund, if not already dead.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa and Hyunsu Yim in Seoul; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Stephen Coates)