DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The United States is targeting a Chinese company, and also the people who run it, for helping North Korea with its advancing nuclear program. This comes on the heels of the North's fifth nuclear test. NPR's Elise Hu reports from Seoul.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Targeted sanctions will hit a Chinese conglomerate based on the North Korean border. The Treasury Department says the firm has helped blacklisted North Korean companies procure raw materials that could potentially be used for nuclear weapons. The same company and the woman who runs it are also under indictment by the Justice Department on charges it served as a front for North Korean businesses trying to bank and trade. John Delury is professor of international relations at Seoul's Yonsei University.
JOHN DELURY: Each new nuclear test - and we're on our fifth here by North Korea - spurs this kind of scramble to do something. And sanctions is the kind of preferred choice.
HU: Chinese police announced a week ago they have launched a criminal investigation against the same company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Company, for, quote, "grave economic crimes." The U.S. sanctions prevent the company from doing business with the U.S.
KENT BOYDSTON: This has been - long been a struggle as trying to get at the most sensitive firms and then the most sensitive activities, which is nuclear proliferation.
HU: That's Kent Boydston, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
BOYDSTON: There was other activities they were involved in, trade, that wouldn't necessarily be illicit trade in of itself, but because these organizations, these networks, these people, are so interconnected with each other, it really begs the question of if you allow one activity that seems licit, then are you really just aiding and abetting an illicit activity?
HU: Stopping this particular conglomerate may plug one hole in current sanctions, but there are others. And John Delury says this is probably too little too late to hinder the North's nuclear program.
DELURY: That said, every further step they make worsens our security, both Americans and South Koreans. So it doesn't mean you just throw up your hands and do nothing.
HU: The debate continues about what to do next. One thing's been clear - under numerous rounds of sanctions, North Korea has continued to advance its nuclear program. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.
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