The United States announced new sanctions on Wednesday aimed at stopping North Korea\u2019s nuclear weapons development and urged China and Russia to expel North Koreans raising funds for the programs.\r\nThe U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on nine entities, 16 people and six North Korean ships it accused of helping the weapons programs. It said two China-based trading firms were involved in exporting millions of dollars worth of metals and other goods used in weapons production.\r\nThe individuals included members of North Korea\u2019s Workers Party operating in China, Russia and Georgia\u2019s breakaway Abkhazia region. Among them were North Korea\u2019s vice consul in Nakhodka, Russia and an individual reportedly involved in sending North Korean laborers to Abkhazia.\r\n\u201cTreasury continues to systematically target individuals and entities financing the Kim regime and its weapons programs, including officials complicit in North Korean sanctions evasion schemes,\u201d Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.\r\n\u201cThe U.S. government is targeting illicit actors in China, Russia, and elsewhere who are working on behalf of North Korean financial networks, and calling for their expulsion from the territories where they reside.\u201d\r\nThe entities sanctioned included North Korea\u2019s Ministry of Crude Oil Industry.\r\n\u00a0\r\nThe action enables the United States to block assets held by the individuals or firms in the United States and prohibits U.S. citizens from dealing with them.\r\nAsked if the Chinese companies sanctioned by the United States had broken sanctions, foreign ministry spokeswomen Hua Chunying said that she did not have all the facts right now.\r\nChina will investigate any company or individual that is found to have violated U.N. resolutions in accordance with Chinese law, she said.\r\n\u201cChina resolutely opposes any country using its own laws to carry out long-arm jurisdiction on Chinese companies or individuals,\u201d she said.\r\nThe United States has led an international campaign to tighten sanctions on North Korea to force it to give up development of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting the United States.\r\nThe U.N. Security Council in December unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to further limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil.\r\nCIA director Mike Pompeo has said North Korea is \u201ca handful of months\u201d away from being able to make a nuclear attack on the United States.\r\nOn Tuesday, he said U.S. President Donald Trump\u2019s focus was on a diplomatic solution to the crisis backed by tighter sanctions, but the CIA was working to provide a range of other options should that fail.\r\nThe Trump administration has said all options are on the table including military ones, and officials say the president and his advisers have discussed the possibility of a limited strike. But debate on military options has lost some momentum in recent weeks after North and South Korea resumed talks ahead of next month\u2019s Winter Olympics in the South.\r\nSanctions expert Anthony Ruggiero of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank said the Treasury move showed Trump\u2019s \u201cmaximum pressure\u201d policy would continue even with the focus on the inter-Korea talks.\r\n\u201cThe action against Chinese firms is important as it increases the pressure on Beijing to stop Chinese nationals from facilitating North Korea\u2019s sanctions evasion,\u201d he said.\r\nTreasury named the firms as Beijing Chengxing Trading Co Ltd and Dandong Jinxiang Trade Co Ltd.\r\nA senior U.S. official said this week that despite the Trump administration\u2019s recent public focus on Russia, China remained the main culprit in North Korea sanctions busting. He pointed to involvement of Chinese organized crime groups, banks, and government officials in the peddling of amphetamines, counterfeit currency and fake luxury goods.\r\nWhile China has backed successive rounds of U.N. sanctions on North Korea it worries that excessive pressure could cause the collapse of a country it has long considered a strategic ally.\r\nReuters.