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U.S. Pursuing North Korean Leader’s Secret Money, Official Says


Washington (VOA) – China, North Korea’s sole ally, will be implementing the recently adopted U.N. sanction on the North in a “robust fashion” because of its concern over the North Korean nuclear threat, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said he was optimistic that China would take U.N. Security Council Resolution 2094 seriously, saying the Chinese made it clear about their concern about the North’s nuclear weapons programs.

​Last month, the U.N. body imposed the new sanction on North Korea for its latest nuclear test.

“I think that the Chinese will be implementing this resolution in a robust fashion,” said Cohen in an interview with VOA’s Korean Service.

A key part of the U.N. measure is to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons and missiles by cutting funds.

Cohen said Washington is considering its own action, separate from the U.N. action.

“We are looking for ways to intensify the financial pressure on North Korea, most importantly, to restrict North Korea’s ability to finance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

North Korea was already under tight international sanctions even before the latest U.N. measure was taken for violating previous U.N. resolutions.

In an apparent attempt to get hard currency, the Stalinist country has reportedly run sophisticated money-making networks involving various illicit activities, including making a fake $100 bill known as a “supernote.”

Cohen, the Obama administration’s point man on investigating the North’s illicit activities, said Washington is still concerned about Pyongyang’s counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

“We believe North Korea is continuing to try to pass a supernote into the international financial system,” said Cohen.

In response, later this year the U.S. will be introducing a newly designed $100 bill “that ought to make it more difficult for North Korea to counterfeit” U.S. currency, Cohen explained.

Washington has been paying close attention to large cash flowing into Pyongyang out of concern that it could be used for making banned weapons and Pyongyang’s recent action to suspend operations of the Kaesong industrial complex brought renewed attention to this issue.

The inter-Korean project has been the last symbol of cooperation between two Koreas and rare source of hard currency for Pyongyang since its operation in 2004.

On Wednesday, in its editorial The Wall Street Journal, a U.S. newspaper, called on the South Korean president to close the complex down for good, calling it “a misguided experiment.”

Cohen said Washington has some concern about the economic project, adding it is up to two Koreas to decide how to operate the complex.

“Precisely what North Koreans do with earnings from Kaesong, I think, is something that we are concerned about. All of the hard currency earnings of North Korea are something I would say that we should be concerned about.”

Washington is also targeting Kim family’s secret money in its efforts to squeeze Pyongyang financially.

The late Kim Jong-il has reportedly hidden a large amount of cash in Switzerland banks.

“I can say that we are very actively looking for where that money may be. If we identify where it is, we will do everything we can to deprive the Kim family of access to those funds.”


Reported in Korean by Brent Choi for VOA Korean Service. Written in English by Jennifer Yoo.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: news editors at VOA’s Korean Service Korean-editors@voanews.com
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