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All Headlines 10:35 June 25, 2009


U.S. Treasury Warns of N. Korean Attempts to Circumvent Sanctions

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Treasury on June 18 told world financial bodies to beware of North Korean attempts to circumvent new U.N. sanctions.
"The Treasury is concerned that, in an attempt to evade U.N. Security Council Resolution provisions, North Korea may increasingly rely on cash transactions," the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the department said in an advisory.
"All financial institutions should remain vigilant regarding attempts by North Korean customers to make large cash deposits into new or existing accounts, as well as the associated risk of the passing of counterfeit currency."

The 34-point U.N. resolution calls for an overall arms embargo on North Korea except for light weapons and small arms, and imposes financial sanctions to prevent the flow of funds that could benefit North Korea's missile, nuclear or any other proliferation activities.

The resolution also advises U.N. member states to reduce or refrain from providing any further financial aid to North Korea unless the aid is related to humanitarian activity.

U.S. officials have also said they are considering seeking their own financial sanctions against North Korea aside from those imposed by the U.N.

Washington slapped financial sanctions on a Macau bank in 2005, freezing US$25 million worth of North Korean assets and effectively cutting off Pyongyang's access to the international financial system. Banco Delta Asia had been accused of helping North Korea launder money by circulating sophisticated counterfeit US$100 bills called "supernotes."

The advisory said the U.S. government "remains concerned about North Korean production and distribution of high-quality counterfeit U.S. currency."

"The U.S. government is ready to assist with the investigation of North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency wherever it is detected," it said.

Reports said that the U.S. recently found that North Korea circulated about US$1 million worth of supernotes at a South Korean port late last year.

The FinCEN advisory asked "all U.S. financial institutions to take commensurate risk mitigation measures."

"FinCEN notes that with respect to correspondent accounts held for North Korean financial institutions, as well as their foreign branches and subsidiaries, there is now an increased likelihood that such vehicles may be used to hide illicit conduct and related financial proceeds in an attempt to circumvent existing sanctions," it said. "Financial institutions should also continue to ensure that they are not providing financial services for North Korea's procurement of luxury goods."

The advisory listed 17 North Korean banks to help "assist in applying enhanced scrutiny" by U.S. and overseas financial institutions.

They are: Amroggang Development Bank, Bank of East Land, Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Credit Bank of Korea, Dae-Dong Credit Bank, First Credit Bank, Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Hana Banking Corp. Ltd., The International Industrial Development Bank, Korea Joint Bank (KBJ), Korea Daesong Bank, Korea Kwangson Banking Corp., Korea United Development Bank, Koryo Commercial Bank Ltd., Koryo Credit Development Bank, North East Asia Bank and Tanchon Commercial Bank.


U.S. Ready to Intercept Any N. Korean Missile: Gates

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States is ready to intercept any North Korean ballistic missile that approaches its territory, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on June 18.

"I've directed the deployment again of THAAD missiles to Hawaii," Gates told a Pentagon press briefing. "And the SBX Radar has deployed, away from Hawaii, to provide support. Based on my visit to Fort Greely (Alaska), the ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action."

The theater high-altitude area defense (THAAD) system was designed to destroy ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, or just seconds before they explode over U.S. cities or military assets. The Sea-based X-Band (SBX) Radar is an ocean-going platform to track missiles.

Diverting resources to revive the economy, the Obama administration last month cut back a defense budget that would have increased the number of interceptors to 44 from 30, saying 30 interceptors are enough to counter North Korea's missile capability "for some years to come."

Gates was responding to the reports that North Korea is preparing for a ballistic missile launch in defiance of U.N. resolutions banning the reclusive communist state from testing any further nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"We're obviously watching the situation in the North, with respect to missile launches, very closely. And we do have some concerns, if they were to launch a missile to the west, in the direction of Hawaii," he said. "So without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say, I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary to protect American territory."


U.S. Ready for Any Contingency from N. Korea: Obama

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has said the U.S. is prepared for any contingency involving North Korea, repeating that he will not reward the isolated state for its provocations.

"This administration, and our military, is fully prepared for any contingencies," Obama said in a prerecorded interview with CBS News on June 22, according to the Associated Press. "What we're not going to do is to reward belligerence and provocation."

Obama was reiterating his position expressed early last week in a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington.

Obama said at that time he will not bow to the North's traditional brinkmanship, noting "There's been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion and if it waits long enough is then rewarded with foodstuffs and fuel and concessionary loans and a whole range of benefits."

Lee also said that the "North Koreans will come to understand that this is different, that they will not be able to repeat the past or their past tactics and strategies."


U.S. Urges North Korea to Free American Journalists

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on June 23 urged North Korea to release two American journalists sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp early this month for illegal entry and an unspecified grave crime.

"We urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two journalists on humanitarian grounds," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a daily news briefing.

Kelly said that the Swedish ambassador to North Korea, Mats Foyer, met with Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for the San Francisco-based Internet outlet Current TV, earlier in the day in Pyongyang. It was the fourth such meeting since their detention in March.

The Swedish envoy was denied access to their trial earlier this month. Foyer represents U.S. interests in North Korea, which does not have diplomatic relations with Washington.

Lee and Ling were detained by North Korean soldiers along the Chinese border on March 17 while working on a story about North Korean refugees.

"The Swedish ambassador, as you know, has met several times with the journalists, and he met today with the journalists," Kelly said. "I don't have any more details, except I know it happened in Pyongyang. We haven't gotten a full report on it from the Swedish ambassador. But I want to just lay out the caveat that even if we did have full details, I wouldn't be able to share them with you because of privacy concerns."

The spokesman said that the Swedish ambassador has been "in constant contact with the North Korean foreign ministry, is constantly pressing them for more information about these two young women."

Kelly noted the remarks by U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton that the U.S. was pursuing many different avenues to get their release.

"This is a very important issue for us. Whenever U.S. citizens are in distress, it is a top priority," he said. "But I also know that it's a very sensitive issue and, you know, beyond calling for their immediate release, I don't want to really characterize what other avenues we're pursuing."

Clinton said early this month the government was working "in every way open to us to persuade the North Korean government to release the two journalists on a humanitarian basis. We're going to continue to pursue every possible avenue."

She also said that she had sent a letter to North Korea to seek the release of the reporters and apologize for their illegal border crossing.

Reports said that the U.S. has already proposed sending former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, chairman of Current TV, or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to North Korea to negotiate the release of the journalists.


President Lee Says S. Korea Is Only Gov't Truly Helping North

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's president urged the North on June 23 to halt its military threats and work with his country, saying it is the only one in the world truly interested in helping the communist state.

"Every country in the world is interested in helping North Korea, but there is no other country except South Korea that is interested in helping North Korea stand on its own and be able to survive international competition," President Lee Myung-bak said in a meeting of some 370 leaders of Korean communities from 65 countries throughout the world.

"We keep telling North Korea to become a (responsible) member of the international community and that if it does, South Korea and the world can help North Korea become a country that can live without any assistance," Lee said at the World Korean Community Leaders Convention.

Pyongyang conducted its second nuclear test on May 25, prompting a strong condemnation and sanctions from the U.N. Security Council.

The North, however, continues to escalate tension in the region by threatening to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile and reinforce its nuclear arsenal with a uranium enrichment program in addition to its existing plutonium-based weapons program.

The South Korean president said threats and provocations can buy time for North Korea, but not its survival.

"Living by threatening when it is not getting any assistance is not truly living," Lee said.

The president said North Korea could become one of the fastest-growing economies if it decides to open up, noting South Korea grew economically in a short period of time after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

"I believe North Korea can catch up with China in a very short period of time if we put in the necessary infrastructure, build factories there and train their workers," he said. "I believe North Korea will change once it learns South Korea's sincere intentions."

Meanwhile, Lee's unification minister and chief North Korea policy adviser, Hyun In-taek, said the Seoul government will be ready to discuss resuming humanitarian aid shipments to North Korea if the communist neighbor returns to the dialogue table.

"At present, inter-Korean relations are in a difficult situation. But we're still thinking about peace on the Korean Peninsula and the North Korean people, as our future depends on unification," Hyun said in a public speech in Seoul on June 22 night.

"If North Korea shows any genuine intention of rejoining dialogue, we're ready for full-scale discussions on inter-Korean humanitarian issues. The only way to improve the humanitarian environment for the North Korean people is for the North to give up nuclear weapons and again begin to cooperate with international society," said the minister.


S. Korea Should Modernize Force to Tackle N. Korea's 'Robust' Air Defense

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has a "robust integrated air defense" that requires South Korea to bolster efforts to modernize its air force training, a U.S. commander here said June 24.

"We need an electronic warfare training range to prepare our pilots for North Korea's robust integrated air defense capability," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington said in a speech in Seoul.

South Korea currently has only one such range in its northeastern region, according to Air Force officials in Seoul.

"Effective training now will mean a minimized threat of death and destruction in the greater Seoul metropolitan area later," Remington said during a South Korean Air Force conference.

The three-star U.S. general heads the 7th Air Force that operates about 80 non-rotational aircraft here, which support the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.

North Korea recently detonated a nuclear device and test-fired a series of short-range missiles, drawing international censure that led to tougher sanctions on the communist state.

According to sources in Seoul, North Korea has also intensified air force training this year off its west coast, where it has threatened an armed provocation against U.S. and South Korean forces.

"Force modernization has to be a priority for the ROKAF in order to be able to lead the air component," Remington said. ROK stands for the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name, while AF refers to its Air Force.

"The aging fleet of aircraft must be replaced with newer jets capable of carrying precision guided munitions," he said, warning that the South Korean Air Force "has an extremely limited night and all-weather capability."

"The ROKAF is not interoperable and cannot support a digital CAS (close air support) environment," he added, calling for improved Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I).

"There must be improvements in the ROK's C4I capability," he said.

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