- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

China’s biggest foreign exchange bank has stopped doing business with its North Korean counterpart, in the first public move Beijing has taken to contribute to international pressure following Pyongyang’s illegal nuclear and missile tests.

Bank of China Ltd shut the account of North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which the U.S. government says is helping finance Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing a brief statement from Bank of China.

The statement gave no reason for the move and bank executives declined to comment further, Reuters said.

The closure is the first major, publicly announced step taken by any Chinese institution to curb dealings with North Korea following U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed in the wake of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February.

In March, the United States hit the the Foreign Trade Bank with sanctions prohibiting any U.S. companies or individuals from doing business with it.

Japan has also imposed sanctions, and Australia is expected to follow suit soon, Reuters said. Washington has also urged the European Union to sanction the Foreign Trade Bank and has raised the issue with China, although Beijing has not commented publicly.