SEOUL | Washington’s new sanctions seek to cut off North Korea’s illicit moneymaking sources by freezing the assets of those who help the regime fund its nuclear-weapons program, a senior U.S. envoy said Monday, describing a blacklisting tactic to further isolate Pyongyang financially.
The U.S. will publicly name institutions and people accused of helping North Korea make money illegally in the next few weeks, Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said in Seoul.
Mr. Einhorn, shedding light on the sanctions two weeks after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced them during her own visit to Seoul, said the measures will pinpoint “illicit and deceptive” activities such as drug trafficking, currency counterfeiting and the banned trade in conventional arms.
“We know that these activities bring hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency annually into North Korea, which can be used to support DPRK nuclear or military programs or fund luxury goods purchases,” Mr. Einhorn said.
DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Mr. Einhorn, calling Iran and North Korea “two of the greatest threats” to international security, said Washington is concerned about a global network of trading firms involved in proliferation-related activities.
He said the U.S. would begin freezing the assets and bank accounts of companies connected to North Korea, and urged other nations to pressure banks in their nations to freeze suspect accounts as well.
Washington has taken similar steps against Pyongyang in the past. In 2005, Washington blacklisted Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau accused of helping North Korea launder money and conduct other illicit activities.
Institutions concerned about their reputations and reluctant to jeopardize their ties with the U.S. cut off dealings with the bank — effectively severing North Korea from the international financial system.
“These measures are not directed at the North Korean people,” Mr. Einhorn said. “Instead, our objective is to put an end to the DPRK’s destabilizing proliferation activities, to halt illicit activities that help fund its nuclear and missile programs and to discourage further provocative actions.”
North Korea, which tested a nuclear bomb in 2006, is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs and last year revealed it has a uranium enrichment program that would give the regime a second way to make nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang abandoned those talks last year after the U.N. Security Council condemned the regime for carrying out a long-range missile test. Weeks later, North Korea carried out a second nuclear test.