By Seima Oki and Shuhei Kuromi / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentsWASHINGTON — The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has launched an investigation into a Chinese trading company over illicit dealings with North Korea, which continues its nuclear and missile development programs.
Washington plans to impose financial sanctions on the company if it finds sufficient evidence to prove the dealings.
Following a move to impose the first sanctions on a Chinese firm in late June, the Trump administration has further strengthened its pressure on Beijing.
The company in question is a Dandong, China-based trading firm.
According to documents disclosed by a federal district court in Washington, the company has been involved in the purchase of items related to Pyongyang’s military equipment and weapons development.
The accumulated amount from the illegal transactions is believed to be more than $700 million (about ¥79 billion).
Documents were issued by the district court to allow the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the company.
Subsequently, the department began investigating accounts held by the company and its affiliates at eight financial institutions based in the United States, among other locations, to track down the flow of funds.
Investigators are monitoring deposits into each account, while preventing any withdrawals. The department is probing the case, with the possibility that it will file criminal charges against those involved in illicit dealings, including a Chinese national.
In September last year, under the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, the United States imposed financial sanctions on another trading company based in Dandong over illegal transactions with North Korea. The department filed criminal charges against the founder of the company and several others for money laundering.
In its report published in June, C4ADS, a U.S. research organization investigating global illegal transactions, described the company currently under investigation as a trader that had imported the most North Korean coal to China over the past three years. One of its affiliates is suspected of being involved in the transport of rocket ammunition as part of North Korea’s arms exports, according to the report.