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US slaps sanctions on North Korean banks, executives

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

The US imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 executives on Tuesday, ratcheting up pressure on the country amid increasingly bellicose exchanges with Pyongyang over its nuclear program.

"This further advances our strategy to fully isolate North Korea in order to achieve our broader objectives of a peaceful and denuclearized Korean peninsula," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Tuesday's announcement compounded economic sanctions which the United Nations unanimously imposed on North Korea after it carried out its latest nuclear weapons test early this month.

The new sanctions target North Koreans working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

All property and interest of the designated companies and individuals in the US are blocked by the sanctions, effectively freezing them out of much of the global financial system.

The US targeted North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank and the Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as North Korean government agencies.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which overseas US sanctions programs, said the Foreign Trade Bank had carried out transactions on behalf of North Korea's weapons development program.

The new sanctions also came the same day President Donald Trump ignored pleas to tone down anti-Pyongyang rhetoric, accusing the regime of having tortured a captive US student "beyond belief."

General Joe Dunford, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, testified before lawmakers on Tuesday that for the time being the confrontation with North Korea was more political than military.

© 2017 AFP