(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS Seoul's response in last 2 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States imposed sanctions on five Russian entities, including two Russian nationals, for aiding North Korea's ballistic missile programs Friday.
"The DPRK continues to launch ballistic missiles in blatant violation of international law, posing a grave threat to global security," Brian Nelson, under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, was quoted as saying, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Today's actions respond to this threat by targeting a network of Russia-based individuals and entities complicit in helping the DPRK procure components for its unlawful ballistic missile systems," he added, according to the treasury department.
The department said the two Russian individuals and three Russian companies have been helping Park Kwang-hun, a North Korean representative based in Vladivostok who was designated by both the U.S. and the United Nations in 2018 for procuring supplies for the North's illicit weapons programs.
"As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC (office of foreign assets control)," the treasury department said in a press release.
The move comes one day after the U.S. said the North had tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system in its recent missile tests, conducted Feb. 27 and last Saturday (Seoul time).
A senior administration official here also said the North may be preparing to stage an ICBM test "at full range."
North Korea has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM testing since November 2017, but said in January that it may consider "restarting all temporarily-suspended activities."
Sources in South Korea earlier said the North appeared to be repairing a nuclear test site that it purportedly demolished in 2018 to show its willingness to denuclearize amid leader Kim Jong-un's dialogue with then U.S. President Donald Trump.
Seoul also confirmed its steadfast commitment to closely working with Washington to strengthen their defense posture against the North's testing of the ICBM system.
"We believe that the U.S.' latest measures underscore its previous stance that it is important to implement sanctions against the North while seeking dialogue to secure a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," an official at Seoul's foreign ministry said.
The official also urged Pyongyang to return to the dialogue table for peace on the peninsula and in the region.