UPDATE : 2018.7.21 SAT 09:30
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U.S. sanctions 7 N.K. individuals, 3 entities over human rights abuses

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on seven North Korean individuals and three entities over the regime's human rights abuses.

The Department of the Treasury said it is targeting officials and entities of the North Korean government in line with a State Department report released the same day.

"Today's sanctions target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations."

This compilation image shows an AFP file photo of U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

The report, which is being submitted to Congress in accordance with the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, points to "serious human rights abuses or censorship" by the sanctioned individuals and entities.

And the sanctions freeze their property and interests within U.S. jurisdiction while "generally" banning their transactions with U.S. nationals.

The targeted entities include the Military Security Command (MSC), which monitors military personnel for anti-regime activity and investigates political crimes in the military, according to the State Department.

"In practice, its jurisdiction extends beyond the military to ordinary citizens of the DPRK, as well," it said. DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Among the targeted individuals are Jo Kyong-chol, commander of the MSC; Sin Yong-il, deputy director of the MSC; North Korea's labor minister, the North Korean consul general in Shenyang, China; and a diplomat in Vietnam.

Jo is one of three "angels of death" responsible for the extensive purges under current leader Kim Jong-un, including the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek, the report said, citing South Korean media.

"Human rights abuses by the DPRK regime remain among the worst in the world, including those involving extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence inside the country," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"Many of the country's human rights abuses underwrite the regime's weapons program, including forced labor in the form of mass mobilizations, reeducation through labor camps, and overseas labor contracts," she said, noting that thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad to earn revenue for the regime.

The sanctions are the latest in a series of actions the U.S. has taken to step up pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In recent months, the U.N. Security Council also adopted two sets of sanctions aimed at slashing the regime's export revenue and restricting supplies of oil.

U.S. President Donald Trump is set to make his first official trip to Asia next week, with stops in South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

He is expected to seek further support from China, North Korea's main ally and economic benefactor, to rein in the regime in Pyongyang.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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