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US slaps sanctions on North Korea after joint drill with the South

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)
This photo taken on May 22, 2022 shows a view of the US Treasury Department in Washington DC. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has slapped fresh sanctions on North Korea after Washington and Seoul launched a joint military drill that triggered Pyongyang's "just countermeasure".

Washington's fresh sanctions against North Korea on Friday targeted three companies and two people based in the Marshall Islands, Singapore and Taiwan for allegedly facilitating oil sales to Pyongyang.

"The United States is sending a clear message that we will continue to take actions against those who support the development and sustainment of the DPRK's military and weapons arsenal," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, using the acronym DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] for North Korea's official name.

According to the US Treasury Department, Marshall Islands-based New Eastern Shipping Co Ltd owned a ship called the Courageous, which was also known as the Sea Prima, that allegedly delivered refined petroleum to a North Korean ship off the country's southwestern coast, violating a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that prohibits ship-to-ship oil transfers to North Korea.

The ship "engaged in deceptive shipping practices," such as turning off identification systems and working at night, to "obfuscate its true destination or origin," the US Treasury claimed in a statement.

The US Treasury also targeted Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng and Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan, who were involved in the operation of the targeted ship, and two other companies run by Kwek. The US sanctions restrict Kwek's, Chen's, and the companies' financial activities in the United States or with US entities.

The fresh US anti-Pyongyang sanctions came a day after American and South Korean forces launched a joint naval drill on Thursday.

The South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff announced on Friday that, "We will continue to strengthen our operational capabilities and readiness to respond to any provocations by North Korea through joint drills with ... the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group."

The two-day US-South Korea naval maneuvers also come after the South scrambled its warplanes on Thursday in an apparent response to North Korea's bombing drills.

The US strike group has already taken part in trilateral missile drills this week with warships from Japan and South Korea, following a missile test by Pyongyang on Tuesday in which it launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japanese air space.

Meanwhile, North Korea blasted the US on Thursday for sending an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula, insisting that it posed a serious threat to stability in the region.

North Korea said as a "just countermeasure" to the joint US-South Korea military drills, it fired ballistic missiles and conducted aerial drills near its border with the South. The country's foreign ministry also condemned Washington for calling on the UNSC members to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the North's latest launch.

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