North Korea missile developers hit by USA sanctions

The US treasury named the two men as Kim Jong-sik and Ri Pyong-chol, and said both were "key leaders" of North Korea's ballistic missile programme.

"Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea's ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearised Korean Peninsula", local media quoted the Treasury Department statement.

"These actions follow Friday's United Nations Security Council Resolution, which imposed strong new sanctions on North Korea further shutting down its ability to raise illicit funds", Mnuchin added.

The news agency reported that Ri Pyong-chol was a former air force general educated in Russian Federation and that Kim Jong-sik was a veteran rocket scientist. The report also mentions that Kim Jong-sik is a rocket scientist while Ri Pyong-chol is a former air force general. He was also involved in helping the North transition from liquid to solid fuel engines.

The new U.S. sanctions will block any transactions by the two men carried out in the USA, essentially freezing any American assets they may have.

The sanctions announcement came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held talks by phone in which they discussed North Korea's nuclear program. Ri and Kim accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during the launch of the Hwasong-14 on July 4th and 28th, as well as September's launch of the Hwasong-12, which flew over Japan.

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In a phone call Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that it is "necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible", the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, according to AFP.

"Through various channels, we've recently learned that the North has completed a new satellite and named it Kwangmyongsong-5", a South Korean government source revealed.

The U.S. sanctions followed new punitive measures imposed Friday on North Korea by the United Nations.

North Korea has reportedly fired 23 missiles since February.

Washington is continuing to ramp up rhetoric against Pyongyang over Kim's obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons and repeated missile tests.

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