(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS Seoul's response in last 2 paras)
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals over the regime's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The designations by the Treasury Department are in line with a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week.
"We are targeting North Korean banks and financial facilitators acting as representatives for North Korean banks across the globe," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "This further advances our strategy to fully isolate North Korea in order to achieve our broader objectives of a peaceful and denuclearized Korean peninsula.
"This action is also consistent with U.N. Security Council Resolutions," he said.
The sanctions freeze the property and interests of the designated entities and individuals within U.S. territory or in Americans' possession. By doing so, the administration is seeking to halt U.S. dollar transactions that could flow into Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The eight banks are: Agricultural Development Bank, Cheil Credit Bank, Hana Banking Corp. Ltd., International Industrial Development Bank, Jinmyong Joint Bank, Jinsong Joint Bank, Koryo Commercial Bank Ltd. and Ryugyong Commercial Bank.
The 26 individuals are all North Korean nationals working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates, the department said.
It also identified the Foreign Trade Bank and the Central Bank as part of the North Korean government. The Foreign Trade Bank, it said, is the regime's primary foreign exchange bank.
The Trump administration has stepped up economic pressure on Pyongyang in the hopes the regime will give up its nuclear and missile programs, which have posed a growing threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies.
In a Senate hearing earlier in the day, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford confirmed the widespread assessment that it is only a matter of time before Pyongyang develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon.
North Korea has refused to back down, saying sanctions won't stop it from completing a nuclear force, which it claims is a deterrent against U.S. hostility.
South Korea welcomed the action, saying that it would contribute to the joint efforts with the U.S. to bring the North out to the negotiating table through strong sanctions and pressure.
"The latest action is expected to help alert individuals and entities in third countries doing business with North Korea by highlighting the danger of doing it and contribute to strengthening the international community's resolve to faithfully enforce UNSC resolutions," an official of the foreign ministry in Seoul said.