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(LEAD) U.S. blacklists Chinese bank, individuals, shipping firm for links to N. Korea

2017/06/30 04:00

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(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, background; CHANGES headline)

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, June 29 (Yonhap) -- The United States blacklisted a Chinese bank as a "primary money laundering concern" Thursday for helping North Korea access the U.S. and the international financial system, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The designation of the Bank of Dandong could have powerful effects in efforts to cut the North off from the international banking system as seen in the case of a similar 2005 U.S. financial sanction on Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau.

The blacklisting at the time scared away other financial institutions from dealing with Pyongyang for fear they would also be sanctioned. The measure has been considered one of the most effective sanctions on the North, though it was later lifted in exchange for denuclearization promises.

"This bank has served as a gateway for North Korea to access the U.S. and international financial systems -- facilitating millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The United States will not stand for such actions," Mnuchin said of the Bank of Dandong.

"This proposed rule will require U.S. banks to ensure that the Bank of Dandong does not access the U.S. financial system directly or indirectly through other foreign banks. This action reaffirms the Treasury Department's commitment to ensure that North Korea is cut off from the U.S. financial system," he said.

The Treasury Department blacklisted two Chinese individuals and one shipping firm.

Chinese national Wei Sun was sanctioned for his links to the North's Foreign Trade Bank and Li Hong Ri for ties to North Korean banking executive Ri Song-hyok. Also blacklisted was Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co.

The sanctions are the latest in a series of signs that the U.S. has begun to take action to pressure China after months of fruitless efforts to persuade Beijing to exercise more of its influence with the North as its main food and energy provider.

Earlier this week, the U.S. also downgraded China's status in its annual human trafficking report and put it on par with North Korea as among the world's worst nations, saying Beijing failed to end its complicity in Pyongyang's export of forced labor.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump also complained about China's work in pressuring the North, saying in a Tweet, "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out."

   Mnuchin insisted, however, that the U.S. isn't targeting China.

"While today's actions are directed at Chinese individuals and entities, we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government of China to stop illicit financing involving North Korea. We are in no way targeting China with these actions. We will be meeting with China and other countries at the G-20 next week to further our efforts to cut off North Korea's illicit activities," he said.

"North Korea's provocative, destabilizing, and inhumane behavior will not be tolerated. We are committed to targeting North Korea's external enablers and maximizing economic pressure on the regime until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic missile programs," he added.