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US Takes Steps to Further Cut Off North Korea from US Banks


In this frame grab taken from TV, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, applauds during the ruling party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 7, 2016. The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday designated North Korea as a "primary money-laundering concern.''

The United States is taking further action to cut off North Korean access to the U.S. financial system, calling the North a "primary money-laundering concern."

U.S. banks and other financial concerns are already barred from directly doing business with the North. The steps announced Wednesday would require them to be extra vigilant by keeping banks in third-world countries from gaining access to the U.S. system on North Korea's behalf.

"The United States, the U.N. Security Council, and our partners worldwide remain clear-eyed about the significant threat that North Korea poses to the global financial system," senior Treasury official Andrew Szubin said Wednesday. "The regime is notoriously deceitful in its financial transactions in order to continue its illicit weapons programs and other destabilizing activities."

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that the North uses state-controlled financial institutions and front companies to hide transactions that support building weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Also Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned three recent failed ballistic missile launches by North Korea last month and in April.

The council said the repeated attempts to fire ballistic missiles are "grave violations" of previous resolutions that increase world tensions and contribute to North Korea's development of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The council said it regrets that the North is diverting resources to building missiles when the North Korean people have "great unmet needs."

In March, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution requiring all U.N. members to cut off banking relations with Pyongyang for its continued missile tests.