U.S. blacklists North Korea shipping firms over arms shipments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday blacklisted two North Korean shipping firms that it said tried to conceal arms shipments from Cuba to North Korea, following a similar move by the United Nations. The ship, Chong Chon Gang, was discovered last July near the Panama Canal hiding a large amount of arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters under 200,000 bags of sugar, which the United States said showed a clear attempt to circumvent U.N. and U.S. sanctions against North Korea. North Korea is under an array of sanctions for nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006 in defiance of global demands to stop. "The Chong Chon Gang episode, in which (North Korea) tried to hide an arms shipment under tons of sugar, is a perfect example of North Korea's deceptive activity, and precisely the sort of conduct that we are committed to disrupting," David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Chongchongang Shipping Company, which is owned by the North Korean government, and the Ocean Maritime Management Company, which tried to help conceal the weapons and provide false documents to authorities in Panama, Treasury said. It also blacklisted 18 vessels in which the firms have an interest. The new sanctions freeze any assets the companies may hold in the United States and prohibit people and firms in the United States from dealing with them. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown)