U.S. increases pressure on North Korea over alleged financial crimes | VailDaily.com

U.S. increases pressure on North Korea over alleged financial crimes

SEOUL, South Korea – The United States demanded Tuesday that South Korea join efforts to curb North Korea’s alleged counterfeiting and money laundering activities, despite the North’s threat to boycott nuclear talks if U.S. sanctions are not lifted.South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Wednesday he opposes pressuring North Korea to resolve the nuclear standoff.”I don’t agree to some opinions in the U.S. that appear to … be wanting to pressure North Korea and its collapse,” Roh told a nationally televised news conference. “If the U.S. tries to resolve the problem that way, there will be friction between South Korea and the U.S. But, so far there is no disagreement.”But in a move expected to anger Pyongyang, South Korea announced Tuesday it would partially cooperate with a U.S.-led international drive to block trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.Pyongyang believes Washington’s Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, is aimed against the North.North Korea never responds immediately to outside developments, but the latest U.S. and South Korean moves will likely affect efforts to reconvene talks on eliminating the North’s nuclear program, an expert said.”If something happens that can be considered criticism of North Korea, it could be negative for the six-party talks,” said Park Joon-young, a professor at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University. “But counterfeiting is too serious a problem for the U.S. to ignore.”Diplomats from the Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan ended the latest round of negotiations over the North’s nuclear program in November.The impoverished North has said it won’t resume talks until the United States ends financial sanctions meant to halt alleged weapons proliferation and counterfeit currency distribution by Pyongyang. The U.S. says nuclear negotiations are unconnected to the sanctions.A team from the U.S. Treasury Department met with South Korean diplomats to discuss Washington’s evidence for its claims of the North’s involvement in counterfeiting, money laundering and trading in weapons of mass destruction.Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser urged Seoul “to further strengthen its regime in the area of WMD proliferation by focusing efforts to financially isolate WMD proliferators and their support networks,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement Tuesday.Glaser also “discussed U.S. efforts to warn its financial sector of illicit finance threats worldwide, including those emanating from North Korea, and urged (South Korea) to take similar steps,” the embassy said.The embassy declined to be more specific on what actions it wanted Seoul to take to halt the North’s alleged illegal activity.In September, the United States slapped sanctions on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau, alleging it helped the North distribute counterfeit currency and engage in other illicit activities.Washington also has sanctioned North Korean companies it claimed were fronts for proliferating weapons of mass destruction.North Korea, which had used the Macau bank for decades as a main channel for outside funds, called the sanctions a “sheer lie” and evidence of U.S. hostility against the communist regime.Seoul been noncommittal on whether it shares a U.S. belief that the North engaged in illicit activities, apparently out of concern it could affect a resolution of the nuclear crisis.”Our position is that we have serious concern about illegal activities like counterfeiting,” Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said at a weekly briefing. Still, he cautioned that “issues unrelated to the six-party talks should not obstruct progress.”Wary of Pyongyang’s anger, South Korea also hasn’t committed itself to the Proliferation Security Initiative, which involves maritime drills to stop and search ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials to make them, or missiles to deliver them.But the South said Tuesday it will provide “possible cooperation” with the effort, such as sending delegates to observe exercises and including weapons of mass destruction interdiction drills in regular military exercises with the U.S.South Korea made clear that it was not considering participation in PSI drills or providing logistical support.”South Korea shares the purpose of PSI and will cooperate on a case-by-case basis, but is not considering formally joining” the drive, Ban said.About a dozen PSI drills have been held since the program was launched in 2003 with 11 countries. Since then, five other countries have actively participated, while 60 more expressed support of its goals.—Associated Press writer Kwang-tae Kim contributed to this report.Vail, Colorado

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