SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea has informed the U.S. of up to 20 North Korean bank accounts suspected of being involved in counterfeiting, money laundering and other illegal transactions, a news report said Wednesday.
The move came as Washington considered punishing the North with its own financial sanctions apart from proposed U.N. sanctions. Seven key nations neared agreement on a new U.N. resolution that would toughen sanctions against North Korea for defying the Security Council and conducting a second nuclear test.
South Korea gave the U.S. the information on some 10 to 20 North Korean bank accounts in China and Switzerland at Washington's request, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified government official.
Separately, South Korea's Finance Ministry has imposed sanctions on three North Korean companies for helping the country's April 5 long-range rocket test. The move was largely symbolic because the firms don't do business with South Korea.
The North has long been accused of being involved in the counterfeiting of US$100 bills and money laundering - accusations Pyongyang has denied.
In 2005, the U.S. imposed financial restrictions Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau, over allegations of money laundering and other financial crimes involving North Korea. The move effectively cut the North off from the global financial system.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac said Tuesday that the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on North Korea within a couple of days, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.
Wi arrived late Tuesday in Beijing for talks with top Chinese officials on the North's nuclear stance, noting China's "special relationship" with Pyongyang.
On Tuesday, North Korea said it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked - its latest rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast.
It appeared to be the first time that North Korea referred to its nuclear arsenal as "offensive" in nature. Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and only for self-defense against what it calls U.S. attempts to invade it.
The tensions are beginning to hit nascent business ties with the South: a Seoul-based fur manufacturer became the first South Korean company to announce Monday it was pulling out of an industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong.
The complex, which opened in 2004, is a key symbol of rapprochement between the two Koreas but the goodwill is evaporating quickly in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test on May 25 and subsequent missile tests.
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