U.S. expert calls for sanctioning more Chinese banks over N.K.’s nuclear program

August 25, 2017

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) — The United States should target more Chinese banks in its sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, an expert said Thursday.

Banks in North Korea’s ally and major trading partner are the “source” of the nuclear problem, according to Anthony Ruggiero, a former Treasury and State Department official who now works as a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“If the Chinese banks are not cooperating now, I think the next logical step will be going after Chinese banks,” he told a forum hosted by the foundation.

Chinese banks have long been accused of handling money transactions that facilitate North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

In June, the U.S. blacklisted China’s Bank of Dandong, citing it as a “primary money laundering concern.”

But there were no additional Chinese banks in Tuesday’s announcement of new U.S. sanctions against 16 individuals and entities linked to the illicit programs.

“The Bank of Dandong is a small bank,” Ruggiero said, noting the need to target larger institutions such as the Industrial and Commerce Bank of China, the largest bank in the world.

“I understand that people are very concerned that it will harm the U.S.-China economy, U.S.-China trade, but there’s a way to do it,” he said, suggesting the U.S. simply call out the banks and warn them of significant fines without freezing their assets or cutting them off from the U.S. financial system.

Washington imposed a US$9 billion fine on a French bank as part of sanctions against Iran, he recalled.

Tom Malinowski, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, called for caution in expanding the sanctions regime.

“We need to be careful that sanctions target activities that benefit the North Korean state, not kill all trade between North Korea and China because that’s what is empowering the North Korean people to bring change to their country,” he said at the forum, referencing North Koreans’ growing access to information about the world outside their reclusive state.



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