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US and Allies Impose New Sanctions on Old North Korean Foe

(Bloomberg) -- The US and three of its partners united to impose sanctions on North Korea for its spy satellite launch, with a primary target being an arms-trading company that has been subject to international punishment for more than a decade.

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Australia, Japan, South Korea and the US announced Friday Asia time sanctions against foreign-based agents of North Korea, many working in conjunction with a firm called Green Pine. It has been a sanctions target since at least 2010 when then US President Barack Obama tried to cut off sources of income that supported the nuclear program of Kim Jong Il, the father of current leader Kim Jong Un.

The US Treasury imposed sanctions on individuals it said were associated Green Pine, which it described as specializing in arms production and assisting Iran’s defense-related firms. It said Green Pine is under the umbrella of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, which the US, UN and others have charged with leading the illicit networks that help Pyongyang dodge sanctions, procure cash and conduct weapons trades that further the country’s nuclear arms program.

Treasury said representatives for Green Pine worked to sell conventional weapons to foreign governments and conducted illegal sales of commodities. No contact details or website for Green Pine could be immediately found.

North Korea has routinely denied international accusations that it or its entities conduct illegal operations. The Treasury has said: “Businesses serving as front companies for illicit North Korean activity frequently do not maintain a website or other online presence despite their significant transaction.”

Green Pine, also a subject of UN sanctions, has been accused of using a variety of shell and front companies to stay afloat despite being a sanctions target. Its latest appearance on a fresh sanctions list shows how hard it is to shut down North Korea’s suspected illicit activities.

The US, Japan and South Korea have accused North Korea of violating United Nations Security Council resolutions with its Nov. 21 launch of a rocket that put a spy satellite into orbit.

North Korea has said it has the right to a space program and the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un blasted the criticism of the launch at Security Council.

In a statement released Thursday on state media, Kim Yo Jong, said the body “is being turned into a land of lawlessness where the sovereignty of independent states is wantonly violated, extreme double standards are imprudently applied and injustice and high-handed practices are rampant due to the US and some forces following it.”

The new sanctions also targeted the suspected cyber espionage Kimsuky group, which Treasury said has been active since at least 2012. The Kimsuky group focuses its intelligence collection activities on foreign policy and national security issues related to the Korean Peninsula, according to the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Read: Growing Army of Hackers Helps Keep Kim Jong Un in Power

South Korea accused the group this year of trying to obtain information on joint military drills with its US ally. Kim Jong Un’s regime has also apparently sent the group after its friends, trying to glean information from Russia on its aerospace and defense companies.

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