The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on six North Korean ships, nine companies and 16 individuals that it claimed supported Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction programmes and other illicit businesses. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned the North Korean Ministry of Crude Oil Industry, as well.

Washington also sanctioned two Chinese groups, Beijing Chengxing Trading Co and Dandong Jinxiang Trade, for allegedly exporting goods to North Korean firms that were included on the UN sanctions list.

Under the sanctions, transfers or dealings of any kind with the vessels are banned, and Americans have been prohibited from conducting deals with the companies that own them.

The sanctions were announced soon after Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged that one of its spy planes had photographed a North Korean tanker violating the United Nations’ sanctions. The images, which were taken on Saturday, showed the Rye Song Song Gang 1 arriving beside a Dominican-flagged ship. Japan said it suspected that the two ships were engaged in offshore delivery.

“Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions, the US 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,” US Department of Treasury said. “We are sanctioning additional oil, shipping and trading companies that continue to provide a lifeline to North Korea to fuel this regime’s nuclear ambitions and destabilizing activities.”