Expansion of Sanctions Against North Korea

The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations Security Council have expanded sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear test and ballistic missile launch in early 2016.  The United States, which already prohibited U.S. nationals and U.S. companies from engaging in most activity involving North Korea, enacted the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, which expanded sanctions to target non-U.S. persons engaging in certain activities.  These activities include dealing in weapons and weapons delivery systems; trade in luxury goods; facilitation of censorship; facilitation of human rights abuses; supporting the North Korean government through money laundering, counterfeiting, smuggling, or narcotics trafficking; undermining cybersecurity; and trading in specified commodities.  Further, the U.S. President is authorized to designate other persons as sanctions targets, including persons engaged in bribery or corruption involving North Korean officials.

Under the new law, the consequences of a person’s designation as a sanctions target include blocking of that person’s property and interests in property (and prohibiting transactions in such property and interests in property).  Persons determined to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to have acted for or on behalf of, a designated person face the same consequences.  Designated persons are barred from participating in U.S. government procurement, and they may be denied entry into the United States.

In addition to the expansion of sanctions targets, the new U.S. sanctions establish measures related to traffic through ports and airports by ships, aircraft, and conveyances originating in North Korea, carrying North Korean property, or operated by the Government of North Korea.  Goods transported by such vessels may be subject to enhanced inspection before entering the United States, and any vessels found to have facilitated any conduct of concern may be seized and forfeited.

Shortly after the United States adopted its new sanctions, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2270, which imposes several new obligations and prohibitions on UN member states.  These include an obligation to expel persons determined to be acting as agents of North Korean sanctions targets or of persons assisting in the evasion or violation of North Korean sanctions; an obligation to inspect cargo originating in or destined for North Korea or brokered or facilitated by North Korea or its nationals; and an obligation to deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in, or overfly a country’s territory if there are reasonable grounds to believe the aircraft is carrying items prohibited by North Korean sanctions resolutions, unless the aircraft lands and is inspected.  Moreover, the UN resolution includes a prohibition on teaching or training North Korean nationals in areas that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear proliferation activities (including advanced physics, geospatial navigation, and advanced computer simulation); a prohibition on leasing or chartering vessels or aircraft or providing crew services to North Korea, sanctioned persons, and persons determined to be assisting sanctions evasion; a prohibition on sale or supply of aviation fuel to North Korea; and certain financial prohibitions.

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