WASHINGTON — The United States has moved to freeze the assets of a North Korean bank, the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp., which is accused of providing financial services to companies involved in Pyongyang's banned deadly weapons programs.
The U.S. Treasury Department accuses the bank of providing financial support to Tanchon Commercial Bank and a unit of the Korea Ryonbong General Corp., named by the U.S. government as proliferators of deadly weapons.
The bank is accused of providing financial services to three firms already sanctioned under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. It is based in North Korea and has operated at least one overseas branch in Dandong, China.
Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. would now face a freeze on U.S. assets and a ban on doing business with any U.S. financial institutions, the Treasury Department said.
"North Korea's use of a little-known bank, KKBC, to mask the international financial business of sanctioned proliferators demonstrates the lengths to which the regime will go to continue its proliferation activities and the high risk that any business with North Korea may well be illicit," Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said in a statement.
Washington has stepped up efforts to pressure Pyongyang into scrapping its deadly weapons programs, notably since the reclusive Stalinist country test-fired a series of missiles and conducted a second nuclear test earlier this year.
'Millions of dollars'
The tests prompted an international furor, and the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to toughen sanctions against North Korea.
It said Tanchon has been using KKBC to transfer funds likely amounting to "millions of dollars."
Those transfers also involved arms dealer Korea Mining Development Trading and the movement of money from Burma to China, the department said.
Treasury warned banks in June that North Korea could increasingly try to use cash transactions to evade U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting off financing to its nuclear program.
It urged financial institutions to scrutinize transactions that may involve accounts related to North Korean banks and other individuals acting on behalf of North Korean entities.
Original reporting by Jinkuk Kim for RFA's Korean service. Additional reporting by news agencies. Korean service director: Insop Han. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.