Just when North Korea started engaging with countries important for its integration with international politics, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions against one individual from Taiwan and 32 shipping companies and ships for helping Pyongyang escape international sanctions through smuggling of oil and coal through the seas.
The sanctioned entities also featured in the US Treasury Department's sanctions announced on February 23 aimed at curtailing revenues for Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear ambitions.
The latest sanctions will freeze assets of 21 shipping companies headquartered in Singapore, Panama, Marshall Islands and Samoa. The targeted ships will not be able to use ports around the world.
North Korea already faces a range of sanctions imposed by the US and the international community over its nuclear programmes and missile tests.
The individual who has earned the UN's wrath is businessman Tsang Yung Yuan. He too has witnessed an asset freeze and travel ban for helping North Korea bypass the sanctions and export coal through a third country broker, the UN said.
US supports maintaining pressure on North Korea
The US, which has shown interest in holding direct talks with the North Korean leadership in May, supported international pressure on North Korea. US President Donald Trump expressed interest earlier in March in holding one-to-one talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un while South Korea is due to hold a summit with the North at the border on April 27. Kim also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in a surprise visit to Beijing in the fourth week of March, baffling many in the west.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, hailed the sanctions saying it was a clear sign that the international community is committed to maintaining the maximum pressure on the Kim regime.
The decision of imposing the sanctions was taken by all 15 members of the UNSC. China and Russia were also on board as the diplomatic fraternity felt the council needed to be united in putting pressure on the Kim regime to make him negotiate and serve international peace and stability, said a Wall Street Journal report.
The UN has imposed massive sanctions against North Korea, targeting 90 per cent of its trade revenues in the last two years for repeatedly violating resolutions prohibiting nuclear and military exercises but it has struggled to have countries like China and Russia to enforce the sanctions effectively.