US blacklists Singapore-based shipping company over North Korea links

IndustriesAssociated Press

The Treasury Department blacklisted Thursday a Singapore-based shipping company for allegedly supporting a North Korean firm accused of illicit weapon shipments.

The financial sanctions were announced against Senat Shipping Company and Senat's president, Leonard Lai, and on a vessel, "Dawnlight," in which the company has an interest. U.S. persons are prohibited from doing business with entities on the blacklist.

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Treasury said Senat has ties to Ocean Maritime Management Company, or OMMC, a North Korean firm that operated a ship, the Chong Chon Gang, seized by Panamanian authorities in 2013 for carrying undeclared military equipment from Cuba, hidden under a cargo of sugar. It said Senat arranged the purchase, repair, certification, and crewing of vessels for OMMC.

"Arms shipments transported by OMMC serve as a key resource for North Korea's ongoing proliferation activities. Sales from these shipments contribute to North Korea's other illicit programs," Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin said in a statement.

"We are working to make it as challenging as possible for North Korea to continue its unlawful behavior by actively targeting anyone or any business that supports these illicit arms transfers," he said.

Treasury also added to its sanctions list aliases of the North Korean firm, which it said has continued to operate through front companies and representative offices despite being sanctioned by both the United States and the United Nations in July 2014.

A U.N. report in February found that in the months after the sanctions were imposed, 13 of the 14 ships controlled by OMMC changed their owners and managers, "effectively erasing" the company from a database kept by the International Maritime Organization.

International aid-for-disarmament negotiations with North Korea have been stalled for seven years. Despite a gradual tightening of international sanctions during that period, there's little sign it has succeeded in curbing North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.