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WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday slapped sanctions on three companies and two people based in the Marshall Islands, Singapore and Taiwan for facilitating illegal oil sales to North Korea.

The move follows an escalating series of missile tests by Pyongyang, including the provocative launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.

“The United States is sending a clear message that we will continue to take actions against those who support the development and sustainment of the DPRK’s military and weapons arsenal,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

According to the US Treasury Department, Marshall Islands-based New Eastern Shipping Co Ltd owned a ship called the Courageous – which was also known as the Sea Prima – that illegally delivered refined petroleum to a North Korean ship off the country’s southwestern coast.

North Korea fires two ballistic missiles, blames US drills ‘escalation’

The delivery violates UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean vessels and that cap the country’s refined petroleum imports, Blinken said.

The ship “engaged in deceptive shipping practices,” such as turning off identification systems and working at night, to “obfuscate its true destination or origin,” the Treasury said in its own statement.

North Korea has launched six ballistic missiles – including over Japan – in less than two weeks, saying the sanctions-busting displays were necessary countermeasures against joint military drills by the United States and South Korea.

Friday’s sanctions also target Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng and Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan, who were involved in the operation of the targeted ship, and two other companies run by Kwek.

The measures restrict Kwek’s, Chen’s and the companies’ financial moves in the United States or with US entities.

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