Weapons proliferation concerns triggered sanctions, State Department says
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Washington -- U.S. sanctions on eight North Korean companies for alleged weapons proliferation and one Macau-based bank for alleged money laundering and other illegal activities on North Korea’s behalf are a separate issue from the ongoing multilateral talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, says State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
"At the end of the last round of talks, which I believe was in November , all the parties agreed to return to the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible," McCormack said at a January 3 press briefing. He added that the United States looks forward to the resumption of talks.
On September 19, 2005, at the Six-Party Talks that included the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea, agreement was reached that North Korean would eliminate its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic cooperation in energy, trade and investment. After the round of talks recessed in November 2005, negotiators agreed to meet again, but a date has not been set.
On September 20, 2005, Washington announced sanctions on a Macau-based bank, alleging it had helped Pyongyang distribute counterfeit currency and engage in other illicit activities.
The United States also sanctioned eight North Korean companies October 21, 2005, for alleged participation in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
According to media reports, North Korea announced January 3 it could not return to the Six-Party Talks unless the United States lifted the sanctions.
"We offered the North Korean government a briefing on the actions that we took under Section 311 of the Patriot Act," McCormack said. "And the North Korean government has made it clear that it is not interested in such a briefing."
Section 311 of the Patriot Act has been used by the United States to protect the U.S. financial system from corrupt financial institutions. It authorizes the Treasury secretary -- in consultation with Justice Department, State Department and other appropriate federal financial regulators -- to designate a foreign institution to be of "primary money laundering concern" and to require U.S. financial institutions to take certain "special measures" against the designee.
The United States believes "it is important and perfectly reasonable for individual states to take actions to protect themselves" because there were concerns about counterfeiting and money laundering, McCormack said.