North Korean workers leave Angola following tightened sanctions against Kim Jong Un regime

File photo of women working at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang.
File photo of women working at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang.PHOTO: REUTERS

LUANDA (AFP, NYTIMES, REUTERS) - More than 150 North Korean labourers have left Angola following tightened sanctions against the Kim Jong Un regime, the southern African country said.

Angola's foreign minister Manuel Augusto told state TV the 154 guest workers, who had been working on construction projects, left on Sunday and Monday.

They had been employed by North Korean building company Mansudae, which also builds monuments under the terms of a cooperation deal between the two countries.

Augusto said his country needed to meet "international obligations".

"As their contract had finished, we saw no reason why they should stay in the country," he said.

Angola is one of 11 African countries suspected by the United Nations of maintaining military ties with Kim Jong Un's regime - including training exchanges between police and military units.

North Korea forged friendly relations with several African nations during their wars of independence and during the Cold War.

Foreign workers are a major source of income to the regime.

In the first in a series of moves to pile more pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime, the US Treasury on Tuesday (Nov 21) added the Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation to its sanctions list.

The firm is alleged to have sent North Korea guest workers to China, Russia, Cambodia and Poland.

The US on Tuesday also slapped new sanctions targeting North Korean shipping and Chinese traders doing business with Pyongyang. Three Chinese firms - Dandong Kehua Economy and Trade, Dandong Xianghe Trading Company and Dandong Hongda Trade - are said to have sold computers, minerals and ore to North Korea.

Chinese businessman Sun Sidong and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial are accused of exporting vehicles, machinery, radio navigation and "items associated with nulear reactors."

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (Nov 22) that China opposed unilateral sanctions after the United States imposed new curbs against the 13 Chinese and  North Korean organisations. A spokesman for the ministry, Mr Lu Kang, made the comment at a daily news briefing.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had described the sanctions on Monday as extensions of existing prohibitions.

"It may, though, disrupt and dissuade some third parties," he said. "This will close a few additional loopholes off."

Analysts said they doubted that new sanctions would make any real difference on the already heavily penalised country. If anything, they said, the designation will make diplomacy more difficult without increasing Washington's leverage, warning that North Korea will probably take the naming and shaming as another reason to stick to its hard-line policy of developing and testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"It's hard to see any real impact on North Korea, which has lived through all manners of sanctions for seven decades," said Paik Hak Soon, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean research organisation.

"What it does instead is to send a clear message to North Korea that Trump is not interested in talks, another sign and reconfirmation that the Americans remain a hostile force."

North Korea has yet to respond to Trump's move.