[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] announced [Federal Register materials] Monday that it has instituted sanctions against Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean arms companies for violating US rules against the spread of weapons and missile technology. Under the sanctions, the companies are banned from trading with the US or US companies. The sanctions were imposed under the Arms Export Control Act [text], as well as executive orders issued in 1994 [Executive Order 12938 text, PDF] and 2001 [Executive Order 13222 text, PDF]. The sanctions are not expected to have much direct impact on the companies, but are seen as symbolic [AP report] of the weapons proliferation stance of US President Barack Obama [official website] and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile].
Aside from criticizing the practices of individual companies, the US and other countries have expressed concern over the weapons programs of both the Iranian and North Korean governments. In October 2008, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] head Mohamed ElBaradei [BBC profile] said he wants North Korea to return [JURIST report] to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [text, PDF; IAEA backgrounder] after a five-year absence. In May, Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US issued a joint statement [text, PDF] calling Iran's uranium enrichment program a major threat [JURIST report] to the treaty.