Russia says it will retaliate after the United States imposed new economic sanctions on 16 mostly Chinese and Russian companies and individuals, accusing them of aiding the North Korean government and its missile and nuclear programs.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced the new measures on August 22, saying the penalties were intended to further isolate Pyongyang.
The list includes six Chinese companies, a Russian company, and four Russian individuals, as well as a construction company based in Africa and two Singapore-based companies that allegedly sell oil to North Korea.
Hours after the sanctions were announced, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the ministry was "starting to work on retaliatory measures, which are unavoidable in this situation."
In view of the new sanctions, he said, "U.S. statements about a desire to stabilize bilateral ties sound particularly unconvincing." But he voiced hope that the United States will eventually realize that such sanctions won't work.
The sanctions list includes the Russian company Gefest-M LLC and its general director, Ruben Kirakosyan.
Kirakosyan claimed in an interview with TASS on August 22 that he never made any deals with North Korea, although he talked with Pyongyang at least five years ago about supplying Armenian wine and cigarettes.
In addition to helping North Korea’s weapons programs, the Treasury Department said the companies on the list helped "facilitate its exportation of workers, and enabled sanctioned North Korean entities to access the U.S. and international financial systems."
The Treasury statement gave no further details.
However, North Korean workers have long been utilized by Russian companies doing timber harvesting and other natural-resource extraction in Siberia’s vast wilderness, as often as not with the awareness of local authorities.
The sanctions aim to block any financial assets the companies and individuals might have, for example, with U.S. banks, and forbid Americans from conducting transactions with them.
Like previous U.S. administrations, President Donald Trump has struggled to respond to North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated weapons programs and its persistent belligerence.
Trump himself recently threatened "fire and fury" against Pyongyang, rhetoric that alarmed many observers in East Asia.
With reporting by AP and TASS