The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and accused a Chinese bank of laundering money for Pyongyang.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network today announced steps to safeguard the US financial system against illicit North Korean financial activity, in light of the regime's ongoing evasion of worldwide sanctions, development of weapons of mass destruction and violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
"This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China", Mnuchin told reporters.
Amid growing tension with North Korea, the United States is increasing pressure on Chinese financial players.
"If Trump wants to get serious about applying greater pressure on North Korea, at this point that will require a more coercive attitude toward China", Ratner said.
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The announcement comes just a week before President Donald Trump is due to meet with his Chinese counterpart at the Group of 20 leaders summit next week in Germany.
Mr. Mnuchin said that China was in the "nothing" referred to by those measures, designed by two chinese nationals and a transport company, and involved the day of the visit of south Korean president Moon Jae-In in Washington.
Another Chinese citizen, Li Hong Ri, is being sanctioned for cooperating with a Beijing-based official who had already been sanctioned for procuring items and conducting financial transactions on North Korea's behalf.
Also blacklisted was Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co.
But US officials have been playing down the idea that Washington and Seoul are at odds over their approach, with a senior administration official insisting Thursday they "share precisely the same goal, which is the complete dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs". But Mnuchin said the action was not being done to send China a message. But he could also choose to act like he's willing to become a strict enforcer but not follow through on it, something China does with banned goods going into North Korea all the time.
Trump has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions and his administration has said military action was a possibility.