(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from state department spokesperson, more information in last 6 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Wednesday that it is designating six North Korean individuals related to North Korea's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs.
The Department of Treasury said it is designating five North Korean individuals -- one based in Russia and four in China -- for illegally procuring materials for the North's WMD and ballistic missile programs.
The State Department is also designating an additional North Korean individual based in Russia for a similar reason.
"Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) individuals responsible for procuring goods for the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile-related programs," the department said in a press release, referring to North Korea by its official name.
"These actions are in line with U.S. efforts to prevent the advancement of the DPRK's WMD and ballistic missile programs and impede attempts by Pyongyang to proliferate related technologies. They also follow the DPRK's six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which violated multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions," it added.
North Korea claims to have successfully test fired a new hypersonic missile in September, a second last Wednesday and a third test yet again this week.
The State Department said the overseas North Korean representatives are responsible for "illegally" procuring goods for weapons.
"The DPRK's latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community's calls for diplomacy and denuclearization," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson was quoted as saying.
The State Department also designated a North Korean national and one Russian national, along with a Russian entity -- Parsek LLC -- for having engaged in activities that have "materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery by DPRK," the treasury said.
State department spokesperson Ned Price said the designations sought to constrain North Korea's weapons programs.
"These are important these are important measures to constrain North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear program," he said in a press briefing.
The department spokesperson urged North Korea to return to denuclearization talks, noting U.S. sanctions and designations, as well as U.N. sanctions, on the North will continue to remain in place.
"It's important that the international community send a strong unified message that the DPRK must hold provocations, it must abide by its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and engage in sustained intensive negotiations," he told the briefing.
"These U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.S. designations and sanctions, they will remain in effect and we urge all U.N. member states to fulfill their obligations under those resolutions," he added.
Price on Tuesday said the U.S. has a number of tools to hold North Korea accountable for its actions and that it will continue to call on those tools.
He, however, said the U.S. also remains committed to dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea and that it will be ready to engage with the North whenever Pyongyang is willing to do so.
Price reiterated the latest U.S. sanctions only seek to constrain the North's weapons programs and that the U.S. remains committed to dialogue and diplomacy.
"We continue to enact measures that put constraints on these WMD and ballistic missile programs," he said. "We'll continue to do that. But just because we are enacting measures that hold individuals and entities to account, that doesn't mean that our belief in the importance and the value of diplomacy and dialogue is diminished."
"We continue to believe that if we are going to bring about a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, if we are going to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that remains our goal, that the only effective way to do that, the only durable way to do that is through dialogue and diplomacy," added Price.
North Korea has boycotted denuclearization negotiations since late 2019. Price on Tuesday said the North has also ignored U.S. overtures since the Biden administration took office on Jan. 20, 2021.
Price renewed the U.S. offer to meet with North Korea at anytime without preconditions, saying the country remains ready and willing to engage in dialogue to discuss any issues, including a possible end of Korean War declaration.
"When it comes to end of war declaration ... we have been very clear that we seek dialogue, we seek diplomacy to bring about lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. We remain committed to that. We have made clear that we are willing, ready and able to engage in that diplomacy in close coordination and consultation with our allies and partners," he said.
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