May 7, 2013 / 7:41 AM / 4 years ago

Bank of China closes bank account of key North Korean bank

BEIJING, May 7 (Reuters) - Bank of China Ltd has shut the account of a major North Korean bank which was sanctioned by the United States in March after Washington accused it of helping finance Pyongyang’s banned nuclear weapons programme.

The Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, had been notified its transactions had been halted and its account closed, Bank of China said in a statement on Tuesday. No reason was given for the closure.

Bank of China is the country’s number 4 lender.

The move to close the Foreign Trade Bank’s account comes amid growing frustration in China over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, as well as Pyongyang’s recent belligerence.

China agreed to new U.N. sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February.

Those sanctions target the North’s attempts to ship and receive cargo related to its nuclear and missile programmes and tighten financial curbs, including the illicit transfer of bulk cash.

The U.N. measures did not address the Foreign Trade Bank. Washington imposed its sanctions separately, but has since urged other countries to follow suit.

Among China’s other top banks, a spokesman at China Construction Bank said the bank did not do any business with the Foreign Trade Bank.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China were not immediately available for comment.

China is North Korea’s traditional ally and its biggest trading partner.

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