WASHINGTON - The United States blacklisted a small Chinese bank on Thursday, accusing it of laundering money to boost North Korea's nuclear weapons development.
The U.S. Treasury Department called the Bank of Dandong a “primary money-laundering concern” and proposed removing it from the U.S. financial system after a 60-day review period.
In addition, the U.S. slapped sanctions on a Chinese shipping company, the Dalian Global Unity Shipping Company Ltd., and two Chinese nationals, Sun Wei and Li Hong Ri, it said had facilitated illegal activities in North Korea.
Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin said at a White House briefing that the action was chiefly aimed at the bank, not at the Chinese government. President Donald Trump has sought to push Chinese President Xi Jinping to rein in Pyongyang's military ambitions, although Trump last week said in a Twitter comment that while he appreciated Beijing's efforts, “it has not worked out.”
Mnuchin said in a statement, “The United States is sending an emphatic message across the globe that we will not hesitate to take action against persons, companies and financial institutions who enable (the North Korean) regime.”
Mnuchin, while not spelling out the details, told reporters that the U.S. had “specific intelligence” about the activities of the bank. The financial conduit is located in Dandong — a northeastern Chinese city on the North Korean border — that is a gateway for trade with the isolated communist country, much of whose financial support comes from China.
“We will follow the money and cut off the money,” Mnuchin said. “We will cut off the money to North Korea until they behave properly.”
The United States, and much of the world, has condemned North Korea's repeated violations of United Nations edicts to halt its test missile launches and nuclear weapons tests. But renewed sanctions have failed to stop Pyongyang's weapons development.
Mnuchin's announcement came hours before Trump was set to meet new South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House to discuss security on the Korean Peninsula and the threat that North Korea poses.