By Kenji Minemura/ Correspondent
WASHINGTON–The U.S. government plans to impose a new set of sanctions against a dozen or so Chinese companies and individuals that have been linked to business transactions with North Korea.
The sanctions are designed to apply pressure on Pyongyang as it continues with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development.
Among the Chinese companies to be targeted are major ones that import North Korean coal and dispatch workers from the isolated nation, according to several sources within the U.S. government as well as those knowledgeable about U.S.-China ties.
The sources said the intention of the Trump administration was passed on to Chinese officials during the high-level economic dialogue held in Washington on July 19.
The U.S. sanctions could take effect as early as this month after discussions are completed in the U.N. Security Council over a new resolution critical of North Korea’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The Chinese companies covered by the U.S. sanctions would also be unable to utilize the U.S. financial system.
If Washington proceeds with the sanctions, they would constitute among the largest in scale of any directed at a third nation due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
The move could deepen the gap between the United States and China over how to deal with Pyongyang because the sanctions would affect major Chinese companies that have conducted trade with North Korea.
While the major aim of the sanctions would be to cut off funds used by Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons and missile programs, the effect on Chinese companies could force Beijing to move away from the cooperative stance it had taken toward Washington in dealing with North Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in April to produce tangible results on North Korea within 100 days. On July 16 that deadline came and went, and U.S. government officials have apparently decided that Beijing was not doing enough.
The sanctions would also affect a number of Russian companies that have business dealings with North Korea, the sources said.
Among the Chinese companies to be targeted under the new sanctions are Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co. and Mingzheng International Trading Ltd., according to sources knowledgeable about U.S.-China ties.
Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material is the largest importer of North Korean coal in China, handling about 9 percent of all coal from North Korea, according to C4ADS, a U.S. research organization.
Mingzheng has reportedly served as a money laundering front for North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which has been targeted by past U.S. sanctions.