The United States has imposed sanctions on four Chinese individuals and a Chinese firm for having trade ties with North Korea.
The Treasury Department and Justice Department took the measures on Monday, saying that the company and the individuals conspired to aid North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in violation of US economic sanctions.
The measures were taken against 44-year-old Ma Xiaohong and her conglomerate based in China's frontier city of Dandong for money laundering and evading sanctions.
The Treasury Department accused the firm, Dandong Hongxiang, and a host of officials of making up a "key illicit network supporting North Korea's weapons proliferation."
Adam J. Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, said, “Treasury will take forceful action to pressure North Korea’s proliferation network and to protect the US financial system from abuse.”
Dandong Hongxiang had over $530 million worth of trade with North Korea from 2011 to 2015, according to a report by the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul and C4ADS in Washington.
The amount could have been enough to help North Korea fund its uranium enrichment facilities, and to design, make, and test its nuclear weapons, the report said.
Among the items traded, there were aluminum ingots, aluminum oxide, ammonium paratungstate and tungsten trioxide as well as materials used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges and missile design.
The three other individuals who were targeted include Zhou Jianshu, Hong Jinhua and Luo Chuanxu, who can no longer do business with American individuals or companies.
The department also sought to seize 25 bank accounts controlled by Dandong Hongxiang, because it said they "represent property involved in money laundering."
The move came after Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test on September 9. It also tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile in August.
South Korean officials say the North is physically ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test.
Pyongyang says it will continue to develop nuclear weapons as a “deterrence” measure against America’s military aggression.