Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Japan Freezes Account Held By North Korean Bank

Japan has frozen an account held by a North Korean bank under a new set of financial sanctions against the communist regime, the Finance Ministry announced Monday. The sanctions - imposed last month in response to the North's missile tests in July - ban fund transfers and overseas remittances by 15 groups and one individual suspected of links to North Korean weapons programs. Under the new rules, the Japanese government has frozen one dollar-denominated account held in Japan by Tanchon Commercial Bank, the Finance Ministry said in a statement. The account had a balance of about $1,000 and hasn't been touched for some 10 years, the ministry said. It did not say when the account was frozen, or which bank in Japan held the North Korean account.Tokyo stepped up trade restrictions on North Korea in July after it test-fired seven missiles, including a long-range rocket, into the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. It imposed the latest financial sanctions in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution that denounced the July launches. Other North Korean banks and a hospital in Pyongyang, as well as Swiss company Kohas AG and its president, Jakob Steiger, are also affected by the sanctions. The United States has imposed its own sanctions against North Korean companies accused of financial crimes, and froze the assets of Kohas and Steiger, alleging they helped North Korea proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Swiss authorities have denied those charges. Meanwhile, Pyongyang's anger over the sanctions have stalled efforts by the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to persuade the reclusive regime to abandon its nuclear program. The six-party negotiations over the North's nuclear ambitions have been on hold since November 2005 because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifts the financial restrictions.