The U.S. has imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 bank workers, beefing up pressure on the country over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Tuesday the U.S. is targeting North Korean banks and financial facilitators acting as representatives for North Korean banks across the globe.
He said the move further advances the U.S. strategy to fully isolate North Korea in order to achieve its broader objectives of a peaceful and denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
The designations are in line with a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump the previous week. The sanctions freeze the property and interests of the designated entities and individuals within the U.S. territory or in Americans' possession, effectively freezing them out of the global financial system.
The Treasury Department said the 26 individuals are all North Korean nationals working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
Applying a previous executive order, the department also imposed sanctions against two other North Korean banks, the Foreign Trade Bank and the Central Bank. The Foreign Trade Bank is the North's primary foreign exchange bank.
Until now, the Trump administration has conducted five rounds of unilateral sanctions against North Korea, blacklisting 33 entities and 48 individuals.
The latest sanctions come just five days after Trump signed a new executive order which authorized the Treasury to suspend U.S. correspondent account access to any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea.
Foreign financial institutions are now on notice to choose between doing business with the U.S. or North Korea.
The measure is considered the strongest U.S. sanction on Pyongyang to date aimed at upping pressure on China and Russia.
Trump said the new order will cut off sources of revenue that fund the North's nuclear and missile programs. The Treasury said the latest measure is a step forward in blocking North Korea's access to the global financial system.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the new U.S. sanctions on North Korean banks and individuals will contribute to joint efforts by the international community to lead the regime toward the path of denuclearization.
The ministry said the action is expected to alert individuals and entities in third countries of the dangers of doing business with North Korea.
The new sanctions are expected to have a considerable impact. U.S. secondary boycott sanctions against Iran in 2010 eventually led to the Iran nuclear deal, while sanctions against the Macao-based bank Banco Delta Asia in 2005 also proved effective in sanctioning Pyongyang.
Washington is seeking a similar strategy again in efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.