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US sanctions three North Korean officials for suspected rights abuses

WASHINGTON:  The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on three North Korea officials, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing “ongoing and serious human rights abuses and censorship,” the U.S. Treasury Department said on Monday.

The sanctions “shine a spotlight on North Korea’s reprehensible treatment of those in North Korea, and serve as a reminder of North Korea’s brutal treatment of U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier,” the department said in a statement.

Warmbier was an American student who died in June 2017 after 17 months of detention in North Korea, which contributed to already tense exchanges between Pyongyang and Washington, primarily over North Korea’s nuclear development program.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim met in Singapore in June this year. In the lead up to the summit, North Korea released three American prisoners, although talks between the two countries have since stalled. Last month, North Korea said it would deport another detained U.S. citizen.

The sanctions freeze any assets the officials may have under U.S. jurisdiction and generally prohibits them from engaging in any transactions with anyone in the United States.

Ryong Hae Choe, an aide close to Kim who, according to the U.S. Treasury, heads the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department, was sanctioned, as were State Security Minister Kyong Thaek Jong and the director of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, Kwang Ho Pak.

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