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US Urges SKorea To Join Crackdown On NKorea

by Charles Whelan
Seoul (AFP) Jan 24, 2006
The United States said Tuesday it has urged South Korea to join a crackdown on alleged North Korean counterfeiting and money-laundering and to do more to counter weapons proliferation.

"Money-laundering, currency counterfeiting, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) constitute a grave threat to global security," said a US statement released after talks between US Treasury officials and South Korean officials here.

Daniel Glaser, US deputy assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, and his team gave South Korean officials a one-hour briefing at the foreign ministry on Monday.

During the meeting US officials explained their measures to crack down on illicit North Korean financial activities and urged Seoul to "take similar steps," the statement said.

"Glaser's trip focused on illicit financial activities facilitated by the North Korean government as well as international efforts to combat money-laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes," the statement added.

The US Treasury Department last September accused a Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, of being a front for North Korean counterfeiting and other illicit financial activities.

The department halted all dealings between the bank and US financial institutions and the following month blacklisted eight North Korean firms in its crackdown on illicit activities.

North Korean has denied the charges.

"Glaser stressed the need for rapid practical steps to ensure that financial institutions such as Banco Delta Asia ... do not provide a facilitative environment for North Korean illicit activites and other criminal conduct," the statement said.

It also said South Korea should step up its efforts against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States has repeatedly designated North Korea a major weapons proliferator.

"Glaser urged Korea to further strengthen its regime in the area of WMD proliferation by focusing efforts to financially isolate WMD proliferators and their support network," it said.

However, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said Seoul was already cooperating with a crackdown on illegal activities as outlined by the visiting US officials.

He declined to say whether the visit had convinced Seoul that North Korea was involved in such practices, saying only that South Korea "has serious concerns about such illegalities as money counterfeiting."

On WMD, Ban said it was also uncertain at this point whether US charges that North Korea was a proliferator were factual.

"Various opinions and information are now being exchanged," he said. "It is a subject to be verified at the United Nations and other international agencies."

Until now South Korea has been wary of efforts to isolate North Korea. It believes this could be counterproductive to efforts to entice the Stalinist state to return to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programmes.

Seoul has declined to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a Washington-led international scheme launched in 2003 to crack down on trafficking in weapons of mass destruction by land, sea or air. The initiative targets North Korea and other so-called rogue states or groups.

However the foreign ministry told AFP that Seoul had agreed to take part in some future PSI activities, if only as an observer.

"We will receive briefing on PSI activities and send a team of observers to offshore interception drills," said spokesman Ko Ki-Seok.

Glaser visited Hong Kong, Macau and Beijing last week to discuss US concerns about illicit North Korean financial activities. He left Seoul Tuesday for Tokyo, according to US officials.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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