United States imposes most stringent sanctions against N Korea

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Senior administration officials told reporters on Friday that Trump would discuss new sanctions on North Korea during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and touted the sanctions as the headline of the of the speech.

Mr Trump's announcement comes as North Korea conducts what is being seen by Western powers as a charm offensive at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

If the latest round of sanctions imposed on Pyongyang fail to yield Washington's desired effects, US President Donald Trump warned ominously Friday that the US will go to "phase two".

Last year, North Korea carried out dozens of missile launches as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

The sanctions target ships, companies and one individual involved in schemes created to evade already-existing sanctions on illicit cargo, including fuel.

56 vessels and shipping companies suspected of assisting North Korea will be subject to the measure.

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Tougher sanctions may jeopardize the latest detente between the two Koreas amid their preparations to create conditions appropriate to hold a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. US officials say that China has pared down its economic relationship with its de facto client state, but that Chinese firms continue to help the regime in Pyongyang.

"We are putting companies and countries across the world on notice that this administration views compliance with USA and United Nations sanctions as a national security imperative", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a news conference following the Trump announcement.

"We believe that a major part of corporate taxes are borne by the workers", Mr Mnuchin said.

Recent reports from Japan, South Korea and the US all indicate that several of North Korea's oil tankers are involved in the ship to ship (STS) transfers of fuel products at sea.

Highlighting one potentially far-reaching step, a senior administration official said governments around the world have already been warned they could face sanctions for "significant transactions" with the Russian military.

How advanced is North Korea's nuclear programme? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US has now blacklisted virtually all ships being used by the North. She said those imports are down 89 percent. The advisory links to a list of all DPRK-flagged vessels compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard and even a new email address to report North Korean shipping violations. It alerted industries to North Korea's "deceptive shipping practices", which includes falsifying the identity of vessels and disabling transponders that track ships' movements.

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