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US Treasury Officials Discuss Frozen North Korean Accounts in Macau

Senior U.S. Treasury Department officials have visited Macau to work on resolving the issue of frozen North Korean bank accounts in the Chinese territory. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong, the United States promised to resolve the issue after North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear programs earlier this month.

After meeting with Macau financial authorities, U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said Monday that Washington stands by its pledge to resolve the sanctions against Banco Delta Asia quickly.

The United States put the small Macau bank on its money-laundering blacklist in 2005, because of allegations it had helped North Korea move illegally gained funds. As a result Macau froze $24 million in North Korean assets in the bank.

"All of this work that we have done has put us in a position where we can begin to take steps to resolve the Banco Delta Asia matter …. We do intend to do that in a timely fashion," said Glaser.

But he refused to specify a timetable for when the sanctions may be lifted and said that there are still a number of steps that need to be taken.

Glaser said Treasury officials pored over 300,000 documents in investigating North Korea's alleged money laundering activities using Banco Delta Asia. He praised Macau authorities for their cooperation in the investigation.

The U.S. sanctions led banks in other countries to curtail financial dealings with North Korea, cutting off much of the isolated country's access to international financing.

The sanctions also became a stumbling block in the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs. For more than a year, Pyongyang refused to return to negotiations until the financial sanctions were lifted.

But on February 13, North Korea agreed to take steps to end its nuclear programs in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits. The United States also promised to resolve the financial sanctions issue within 30 days.