* U.S. put sanctions on North Korean Foreign Trade Bank
* Says bank finances N. Korean missile programme
* EU set to consider new sanctions on North Korea
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, March 25 The United States is urging
the European Union to impose sanctions on North Korea's Foreign
Trade Bank, which Washington believes helps finance North
Korea's ballistic missile programme, a U.S. State Department
official said on Monday.
North Korea earlier this month threatened the United States
with a pre-emptive nuclear strike as the United Nations Security
Council tightened sanctions in response to Pyongyang's third
A few days later, President Barack Obama's national security
adviser, Tom Donilon, said the U.S. Treasury was imposing
sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea's main foreign
exchange institution, for its role in supporting Pyongyang's
nuclear weapons programme.
"Our decision to sanction the Foreign Trade Bank is a big
deal and we hope the European Union looks hard at this," the
State Department official said, briefing journalists on
condition he was not further identified.
He said Washington hoped the EU would put the bank on its
sanctions list. Until it did so, the EU should "look hard at the
actions of the Foreign Trade Bank", he said.
North Korea launched a rocket in December that the United
States said was a test of technology that could one day deliver
a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the
continental United States.
The State Department official said it was complicated for
the EU to impose sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank because
some European countries with embassies in Pyongyang used the
bank for embassy business.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and humanitarian
organisations may also use the bank, he said, adding: "We are
not going after NGOs that do legitimate work."
The 27-nation EU tightened sanctions on North Korea last
month. The sanctions expanded on those approved by the U.N.
Security Council in January, adding measures preventing trading
in North Korean government bonds, gold, other precious metals,
The EU sanctions also barred North Korean banks from opening
new branches in the European Union and European banks from
opening new branches in North Korea.
An EU source said North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank was not
on the current EU sanctions list. EU diplomats are working on
implementing the latest U.N. sanctions at EU level and are
expected to discuss additional sanctions soon, the source said.
The U.S. State Department official said he had revised his
earlier view that sanctions would not work against North Korea
because its economy was too small and too isolated.
North Korea's economy was "more linked to the outside world
than many people realise" and it may be more susceptible to
sanctions, especially if China was involved, than he had
thought, he said.
"Given the increased threat from North Korea, increasing
sanctions is worth a try. The Department of State and Treasury
and the White House are working very closely together to see
what more can be done," he said.
He said there was still scope to increase sanctions on North
Korea. "I don't know what will succeed, but we haven't 'maxed
out', there is headroom, and we have to give it a try," he said.