The US has issued sanctions on five North Korean officials in its first response to Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test.
The Treasury Department announced it was imposing penalties on the officials over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programmes.
The State Department ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man and a Russian company for their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities.
The moves came hours after North Korea said its leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a successful flight test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday that he claimed would greatly increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrent”.
One of the five North Koreans targeted by Treasury is based in Russia, while the other four are based in China.
All are accused of providing money, goods or services to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which the Treasury says is heavily involved in the country’s military defence programmes.
“The DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programmes despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearisation,” said the Treasury’s chief of terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson.
The sanctions freeze any assets the targets have in US jurisdictions, bar Americans from doing business with them and subject foreign companies and individuals to potential penalties for transactions with them.
Shortly before the announcement, North Korea’s state news agency reported that the latest missile launch involved a hypersonic glide vehicle, which after its release from the rocket booster demonstrated “glide jump flight” and “corkscrew manoeuvring” before hitting a sea target 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away.
Photos released by the agency showed a missile mounted with a pointed, cone-shaped payload soaring into the sky, leaving a trail of orange flames, with Mr Kim watching from a small cabin with senior officials including his sister Kim Yo Jong.
The launch was North Korea’s second in a week for its purported hypersonic missile, a type of weapon it first tested in September, as Mr Kim continues a push to expand his nuclear weapons capabilities in the face of international sanctions, pandemic-related difficulties and deadlocked diplomacy with the US.