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US hits North Korean officials with sanctions after missile test

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A missile is launched during what state media report is a hypersonic missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, January 11, 2022, in this photo released January 12, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The administration of US President Joe Biden has slapped sanctions on five North Korean officials over Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said it was imposing penalties on the officials over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the country’s missile programs.

One of the five officials is based in Russia, while the other four are based in China. Treasury accused them of providing money, goods or services to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which it claims is heavily involved in Pyongyang’s military defense programs.

In addition, the US State Department imposed sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man and a Russian company for their alleged support of the Korea's weapons activities.

The sanctions freeze any assets that the targets have in US jurisdictions, prohibit Americans from doing business with them and subject foreign firms and individuals to potential penalties for transactions with them.

According to the Treasury Department, the sanctions followed six ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang since September.

North Korea confirmed that the projectile it test-fired on Tuesday was a hypersonic missile and that the launch was directly observed by its leader Kim Jong-un.

The country’s official news agency KCNA reported on Wednesday that the second test of a "hypersonic missile" in less than a week intended to underscore Kim’s New Year's vow to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology at a time of tensions with the United States.

Pyongyang insists that such tests are in self-defense in the face of Washington's hostile policies, sanctions and joint military drills with South Korea.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it is willing to meet North Korean officials anywhere any time, without preconditions, in order to resume denuclearization talks. Pyongyang, however, accuses the US of applying double standards in its approaches to the two Koreas’ military activities and holds Washington’s duplicity responsible for stalled talks.

On Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price claimed Washington remained committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.

"What we have seen in recent days ... only underscores our belief that if we are going to make progress, that we will need to engage in that dialogue," he told a regular news briefing.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump took unprecedented steps towards apparently fraternizing the North by initiating several rounds of dialog with it, and even walking a number of steps into the country alongside North Korea's leader.

However, Washington blew, what Pyongyang called, a “golden opportunity” at mending the situation by insisting too much on the North’s denuclearization.


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