Senior State Department Officials on Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) Sanctions

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Via Teleconference
March 30, 2017


MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and thanks to everyone who joined us this afternoon for our background conference call with senior State Department officials on the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act sanctions. We have two speakers this afternoon. The first is [Senior State Department Official One]. We are also joined by [Senior State Department Official Two]. As a reminder, this is a background call, so these gentlemen can be referred to in stories as senior State Department officials. And this call will be embargoed until the conclusion of the call. And with that, I’ll turn it over to our first senior State Department official.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: On March 21st, the United States imposed sanctions against 30 foreign entities and individuals and 10 countries pursuant to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. These determinations were the result of a periodic review of sanctionable activity, as required under the law.

Specifically, these entities and individuals were sanctioned for the transfer to or acquisition from Iran, North Korea, or Syria of goods, services, or technology listed on multilateral export control lists or other items that could make a material contribution to the development of weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

These penalties will remain in place for two years, and they will consist of banning the sanctioned entities and individuals from receiving any U.S. Government assistance or procurement, and also from obtaining any U.S. exports of munitions and dual-use items.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region are provocative and undermine regional security, stability, and prosperity. The imposition of these measures today underscores our commitment to counter these activities, which include Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

These sanctions today include designations targeting Iran’s missile programs that remains one of our most significant security concerns in the region as it contributes to regional tensions and poses a serious threat to international stability and security.

Through this action, we have sanctioned 11 individuals and entities for their support for Iran’s ballistic missile program. These steps we have taken are outside the JCPOA. The JCPOA is limited to Iran’s nuclear program, and the United States continues to implement its commitments under the JCPOA.

We have consistently said that we will continue to counter Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, its human rights abuses, including through sanctions where appropriate. It should not be of any surprise to Iran that we would take actions against entities and individuals that engage in proliferation activity with Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

MODERATOR: And with that, we’ll take your questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 at this time. One moment, please, while we wait for our first question.

And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 at this time.

And we have a question from the line of Justin Arnold from Yomiuri Shimbun. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks for taking this call. I have a quick question. On sanctions, is there any talk or specific actions that the State Department might take on actors outside of North Korea, like those maybe in China that are helping circumvent sanctions on North Koreans or North Korean companies? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, if you notice in this case, there’s quite a few Chinese entities that were sanctioned here in this specific case. So yes, we are taking actions against Chinese entities, and 9 of the 11 that my colleague just talked about from Chinese entities and individuals.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And we have a question on the line of Nike Ching from Voice of America. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry, just a quick question, a follow-up on the DPRK sanctions. Next Thursday and Friday, President is going to meet with the Chinese presidency, and I wonder what should we expect, that further discussion or elaboration on that subject. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would just say we’re not going to – we’re not going to get into the discussion – possible discussions that are going to take place.

OPERATOR: And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 at this time. And we have a question from the line of Paul Shinkman from U.S. News & World Report. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. The UN has pushed back against some of the sanctions levied against North Korea, saying that that’s made it more difficult for humanitarian aid to make it into the country. I wonder if you have any response to that. And can you just go over again sort of what the ultimate goal of these sanctions are? What would need to be in place for the U.S. to lift them?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I won’t get into the first part of your question on North Korea. I’m not aware of that discussion. That’s not part of this.

As far as the sanctions go, obviously, what we’re trying to do is (inaudible) and stop proliferation. So we use both the threat of sanctions and the sanctions themselves to try and stop or prevent proliferation, so that’s our objective here.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We have a question from the line of Maren Hennemuth from German Press Agency. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I was wondering if there is any consideration to put the – or to designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization, therefore apply sanctions to them?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We don’t – we can’t talk about potential future actions, and that question is kind of beyond the scope of what we’re here to talk about today.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you anyway.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We have a question from the line of Michelle Kosinski from CNN. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, there. As we’ve seen for a long time, sanctions against North Korea haven’t changed behavior. And we don’t know anything, obviously, about the entities related to North Korea that are sanctioned in this case, but given that it’s material moving in, can you talk a little bit about the impact you expect this to have, even though it’s just a few entities? How significant do you expect it to be on activity and behavior there? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t think I’d have anything specific to say about overall impact. I mean, as I said earlier, I think the one thing we’re trying to do is change behavior of specific entities and individuals, and so that’s what these sanctions are trying to do, is to prevent and deter.

The other thing that works in our favor on these sanctions is a lot of countries internationally follow our sanctions, so I think it kind of names and shames the entities and individuals involved.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 at this time.

We have a question from the line of Beatriz Pascual from EFE. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. I have two questions. When were the sanctions imposed? I have read in an article that it was, like, the 24th of March. And also, you talk about 11 individuals and entities. Could you tell us how many entities and how many individuals, and if they’re from China, United – if you could give us a little bit some information about the countries they’re from. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What was her first question?

STAFF: When did we do it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. The sanctions were actually imposed on March 21st. The press release you’re talking about actually came out on March 24th. So the difference is it’s just the sanctions go into effect when we actually send the report to the Hill.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sorry --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Whether – in the release we talked about 30 foreign entities and individuals in 10 countries. So the entities would be from Burma, China, Eritrea, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE, North Korea, and Iran. We can provide you a specific list, but they’re also in the Federal Register notice that came out today.

OPERATOR: And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do need a question, please press *1 at this time.

We have a question from the line of Yeganeh Torbati from Reuters. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. I noticed the Eritrean navy is on the list. Can you give a bit more detail as to how exactly they’re involved with this illicit trade? And is that notable for the navy of a country to be sanctioned like this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I really can’t get into the specifics of why entities were sanctioned.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We have a question from the line of Rita Cheng from Central News Taiwan. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. My question is also about the North Korea sanction. I just want to follow up, because the Chinese side, they claim that this sanction is against a Chinese individual and entity, which is unfair to them. I’m just wondering: What is U.S. response to that? And will you bring all the evidence you have during the President Trump and President Xi’s meeting next week? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Just on the first part of your – the question, this is not against China or the Chinese Government. These sanctions are specific to the Chinese entities and individuals that have been sanctioned.

The second part of the – it’s outside the scope of this discussion.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1 at this time.

And we have a question from the line of Mariko de Freytas from Kyodo News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’m not sure if this is under your purview, but yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed three bills relating to North Korea sanctions. And I was wondering: Are you considering additional sanctions related to these bills?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I mean, we wouldn’t comment on draft legislation.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press *1. And at this time, I have no questions in queue. We do have a question from the line of Adam Kredo from the Washington Free. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, all. Appreciate you doing this. I was kind of curious, with these sanctions and some of the ones in the past, at this point, have we seen any evidence that you’re halting or reducing Iran’s kind of march towards ballistic missile technology? What’s been the impact here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Look, we’ve got a number of measures – and they’re not just sanctions that we engage in – to slow down or prevent Iran from advancing its ballistic missile program. One of those are sanctions, of course. But they include interdictions – interdictions in conjunction with partner governments, our activities at the United Nations to spotlight those – Iran’s ballistic missile activities, and other activities we engage in as well. So this is just part of a series of things that we do to counter Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Sanctions alone are important. Sanctions shine a public spotlight. They limit the activities of the sanctioned entities. And they also discourage other entities from engaging in those kinds of activities, but will admit that alone they are just – they are just one tool that’s part of a larger toolkit.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our final question will come from the line of Joan Faus from El Pais. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. I have a question. I want to know what is the relationship of these sanctions with the ones imposed on February 3rd against 25 individuals related with Iran. And then I believe you said that the sanctions go into effect today, if I got that correctly. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, actually, the sanctions went into effect on March 21st. I believe the sanctions you’re talking about were actually Treasury sanctions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes, under other authorities.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So those are under other authorities. This is under State authority, is under the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. They were under other authorities, but they do demonstrate our continued resolve to, where appropriate, sanction entities that are connected to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, its human rights abuses, and its other activities in the region that are destabilizing. So we’ll continue to look at other opportunities to sanction where appropriate.

MODERATOR: All right, Operator. I believe we have no further questions. So with that, thanks to our speakers and to our participants. As a reminder, this call was conducted on background. These speakers can be attributed as senior State Department officials. And with the conclusion of the call, the embargo on the call has now lifted. Thanks very much.