Treasury sanctions Chinese firm and 2 citizens with ties to North Korea

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"The Department of the Treasury is committed to protecting the USA financial system from North Korean abuse and maximising pressure on North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs", said Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin.

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Chinese individuals and one shipping company for links to North Korea's weapons proliferation. The step comes ahead of President Trump's visit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

In March also, the Trump administration had slapped sanctions against several Chinese businesses and individuals. Anxieties about North Korea's nuclear capabilities have escalated amid recent missile tests. But Mnuchin said the action was not being done to send China a message.

The sanctions also come one week after the United States and China failed to announce a joint action plan to freeze North Korea's nuclear programme after their first Diplomacy and Security Dialogue in Washington, but reached a consensus on not doing business with any UN-designated North Korean entities.

The US Treasury said North Korea continues to try to evade worldwide sanctions in pursuit of its weapons program.

When Trump and Moon hold formal talks on Friday, they are likely to discuss a controversial USA missile defense system that has been set up in South Korea to guard against missile threats from the North.

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The weighing more aggressive efforts after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis held a summit with their Chinese counterparts last week and as Trump has publicly shown signs of frustrations with the current approach - with a focus on the role he had hoped China would play.

"The campaign is only now really gathering momentum", the official said. He said those were "very effective and that's what brought them to the table".

"While we will continue to seek worldwide cooperation on North Korea, the United States is sending an emphatic message across the globe that we will not hesitate to take action against persons, companies, and financial institutions who enable this regime", Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping must be judicious as he chooses how to respond to Trump's actions.

Sun Wei is suspected of directing a screen company for the account of the bank in north Korean Foreign Trade Bank, the main settlement currency in the country.

However he raised eyebrows last week by thanking his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for its help before concluding that his efforts had "not worked out", without spelling out what he meant to do next.

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