U.S. Sanctions Russian Bank in Slap to Moscow and Pyongyang

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration issued economic penalties on Friday against a Russian bank accused of processing millions of dollars in transactions for North Korean businesses, in violation of United Nations sanctions.

The penalties came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused North Korea of failing to live up to its pledge to denuclearize and continued the contradiction between President Trump, who has lauded ties to Moscow and Pyongyang, and his government’s push for increasingly tough measures against both countries.

The Treasury Department sanctioned Russian-registered Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank for facilitating transactions on behalf of Han Jang Su, the Moscow-based chief representative of the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank.

The sanctions were announced while Mr. Pompeo was in Singapore, attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. One of his top messages while there has been to remind countries to abide by sanctions placed against North Korea by the United Nations.

Following his warm meeting in June with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, Mr. Trump said North Korea “is no longer a nuclear threat,” hailing the diplomatic opening with Pyongyang. But American intelligence agencies have found few signs that North Korea has done anything since to slow its weapons programs.

On Friday, Mr. Pompeo signaled he is beginning to lose patience.

“Chairman Kim made a commitment to denuclearize,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters while flying to Singapore.

Still, he conceded, “We can see we still have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate outcome we’re looking for.”

Mr. Pompeo is deeply skeptical that North Korea will give up its nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs, according to people who have spoken with him. But he has told advisers that, since he began the diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang, he must see it through.

Mr. Pompeo has insisted that North Korea surrender its nuclear and missile programs before it gets any relief from economic sanctions. North Korea, however, wants a step-by-step process toward denuclearization that leads to a meaningful lifting of sanctions and a formal and far earlier end of the Korean War.

The new sanctions came just a day after The Wall Street Journal reported that Moscow was allowing thousands of North Korean laborers into Russia and granting new work permits — potentially violating United Nations sanctions.

Although records in Moscow paint a complicated picture of the permits and Russia’s ambassador to North Korea denied the report on Friday, Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, called it credible and “deeply troubling.”

“Talk is cheap,” Ms. Haley said in a statement. “Russia cannot support sanctions with their words in the Security Council only to violate them with their actions.”

The State Department has said that North Korea’s laborers are akin to slaves who typically work 16- to 20-hour shifts and have most of their wages confiscated by the North Korean government. The United States has warned that American companies that employ North Korean workers at any level could face steep penalties.

Friday’s sanctions were part of an effort by the Trump administration to stay ahead of what seems an inevitable wave of tougher economic penalties against Russia that may soon be required by Congress.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators offered new legislation to ramp up sanctions against Moscow in response to Russia’s continued interference in Western elections, its malign influence in Syria and its takeover of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.