UNITED NATIONS – A U.N. Security Council panel imposed new sanctions Thursday against North Korean officials and companies aimed at curbing the nation's nuclear defiance.
The panel named five people and five companies subject to travel bans and a freeze on financial assets. It also designated two types of materials used in ballistic missile parts — certain types of graphite and para-aramid fiber — that nations must refrain from supplying to North Korea.
The designations need no further approval and are effective immediately.
U.S. officials expressed satisfaction with the list, which required approval by the 15-nation council's sanctions panel. China, North Korea's biggest ally and trading partner, went along with most of the U.S. recommendations.
"It is of course significant that we have also put individuals on the list, as this is the first time. This shows that the sanctions are going on a higher level at this moment," said Fazli Corman, Turkey's deputy U.N. ambassador, who chairs the panel.
Sanctions were approved against the General Bureau of Atomic Energy in Pyongyang, the chief agency directing the North's nuclear program. That includes the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and its plutonium production research reactor, as well as its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities.
Also named were three Pyongyang-based companies — Namchongang Trading Corp., Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., and Korean Tangun Trading Corp. — and one Iranian-based company, Hong Kong Electronics.
The five people named were Yun Ho-Jin, director of Namchongang Trading Corp.; Ri Je-Son, director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy; Hwang Sok-Hwa, chief of the bureau's scientific guidance; Ri Hong-Sop, former director of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center; and Han Yu-Ro, director of Korea Ryongaksan General Trading Corp.
The panel banned nations from selling North Korea two types of goods used in ballistic missile parts: graphite designed or specified for use in electrical discharge machining; and para-aramid fiber, filament and tape, which is a Kevlar-like material.
British Ambassador John Sawers said the panel's unanimous decision, legally binding on all the U.N.'s 192 member nations, "represents a significant contribution to international action to disrupt and deter" the North's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
The U.S. said it has launched a major effort to ensure that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 is implemented effectively.
That resolution, which authorized the panel's decisions, was approved June 12 in punishment for the North's underground nuclear test blast on May 25.
Security Council Resolution 1874 called for clamping down on alleged trading of banned arms and weapons-related material and stepped-up inspections of suspect shipments by sea and air.
Earlier this month, the council also condemned and expressed "grave concern" over North Korea's recent firing of seven ballistic missiles on U.S. Independence Day, the reclusive country's biggest display of firepower in three years.
The missile launches, which occurred off the nation's east coast, defied three previous council resolutions and aggravated tensions already high after North Korea's May 25 test blast.
Japan asked all Southeast Asian nations, except junta-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, to enforce the U.N.'s North Korea resolutions. A North Korean ship, the first to be monitored under the June 12 resolution, turned back before reaching port, possibly in Myanmar, with its suspected illicit cargo of weapons.
On Thursday, Japan's ambassador, Yukio Takasu, called the panel's work "a major achievement."
The sanctions panel took longer than the planned 30 days to designate new targets. It said its focus has been on three areas: sensitive dual-use goods, ballistic missile-related items and nuclear-related items.
North Korea has not indicated how it might react to the sanctions panel's latest decisions.
But on June 13, North Korea's Foreign Ministry threatened to take "countermeasures" including accelerating plutonium reprocessing and starting up uranium enrichment, which would give the regime a second way to make atomic bombs.
North Korea has warned that any attempted blockade of its ships would be considered "an act of war" that would draw "a decisive military response." It also has threatened a "thousand-fold" military retaliation against the U.S. and its allies if provoked.
The council panel also said it would continue working "on an expedited basis" to identify more items, materials, equipment, goods and technology subject to sanctions.