Japan, Australia to impose sanctions on North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank

TOKYO: As part of US-led efforts targeting North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank for its role in funding the country’s nuclear program, Japan and Australia plan to impose sanctions on North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank.

Japan could act within the next two to three weeks in this regard, while Australia might also unveil sanctions soon, sources from both the respective countries said.

Following the United States’ announcement of its own measure this month, the Obama administration was trying to convince other governments to crack down on the Pyongyang bank, a senior US official said.

A State Department official said on Monday that Washington had urged the European Union to take action. On the other hand, the US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, told reporters he raised the issue of the bank with Chinese officials in Beijing last week, although he did not say what their response was.

Experts said the US move was designed to make foreign banks that do business in the United States think twice about dealing with the Foreign Trade Bank, much the same way banks have become wary about having ties with financial institutions in sanctions-hit Iran.

“It was obvious to us, fairly early on, that this bank is key to the North Korean ability to finance and fund” their nuclear and ballistic missile programs, said the senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“And so it was decided it would make sense to do everything we could to put pressure on their proliferation efforts and their WMD (weapons of mass destruction) efforts by putting pressure on this bank.”

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The United States had asked the UN Security Council to include the bank in fresh sanctions imposed on North Korea for its February 12 nuclear test, but China and Russia were opposed, said the senior US official and UN diplomats.  The US announced its unilateral measures against the bank several days after the UN resolution was passed on March 7. Washington’s measures prohibit any transactions between US entities or individuals and the North Korean bank.



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