US sanctions two N.Korean missile experts

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MNA International Desk: The United States announced sanctions on two North Korean officials behind their country’s ballistic missile program on Tuesday, while Russia reiterated an offer to mediate to ease tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

The new US steps were the latest in a campaign aimed at forcing North Korea – which has defied years of multilateral and bilateral sanctions – to abandon a weapons program aimed at developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

The US Treasury named the officials as Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol. It said Kim was reportedly a key figure in North Korea’s efforts to switch its missile program from liquid to solid fuel, while Ri was reported to be a key official in its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development.

‘Treasury 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 Mnuchin said in a statement.

The largely symbolic steps block any property or interests the two might have within US jurisdiction and prohibit any dealings by US citizens with them.

The move followed new United Nations sanctions announced last Friday in response to North Korea’s November 29 test of an ICBM that Pyongyang said put all of the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons. Those sanctions sought to further limit North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.