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North Korean Use of Bank Transfers for Atomic Work Alarms Europe

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Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea’s use of international banks to facilitate nuclear weapons-related trade requires financial institutions to step up their vigilance, the European Union said.

North Korea exports $100 million in weapons and missiles each year in violation of United Nations sanctions, a UN panel wrote in a report released on Nov. 10. The EU said it’s concerned that some of the country’s trade involves prohibited nuclear technologies.

The 27-nation EU today urged all members of the International Atomic Energy Agency to “exercise particular vigilance over exports and financial transfers” in order “to prevent a contribution to proliferation-sensitive activities.”

Tensions with North Korea have increased in recent weeks. The country has built a new facility for extracting uranium, the key ingredient for nuclear weapons, a U.S. scientist reported on Nov. 20. Three days later, North Korea fired artillery at Yeonpyeong island, killing soldiers and civilians.

North Korea’s new nuclear facilities “could bolster its pursuit of a weapons capability and increases our concerns about prospects for onward proliferation of fissile material and of sensitive technologies to other parties,” U.S. Ambassador Glynn Davies said in a statement at IAEA’s meeting in Vienna.

The U.S. has been pressuring banks to cut ties with the North Korea’s regime, State Department documents posted today on WikiLeaks.org showed.

Reputation

Austria’s Financial Market Authority told the U.S. that it “exercised additional surveillance regarding North Korean financial activities” and that one bank cut ties with the country “to maintain its good reputation,” according to a February 2006 cable.

The U.S. and Japan will hold a week of naval drills beginning tomorrow. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington will join a force of about 400 aircraft and 60 warships. Drills will include responding to ballistic missile attacks on Pacific islands, the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces said in a statement.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-weapon state,” Davies said. “We seek an immediate halt of all nuclear activities in North Korea, including enrichment.”

-- Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Andrew Atkinson

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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