US cracks down on firm linked to North Korea

The company in Iran is accused of involvement in North Korea's missile proliferation network.

The United States on Tuesday imposed financial sanctions on a company in Iran that is accused of involvement in North Korea's missile proliferation network. The Treasury Department moved against Hong Kong Electronics, a company located in Kish Island, Iran. The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the US belonging to the company must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the firm. It's the latest move by the US to keep pressure on Pyongyang, whose nuclear ambitions have ratcheted up global tensions. Specifically, the Treasury alleged that Hong Kong Electronics "has transferred millions of dollars of proliferation-related funds" to North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. The US has previously moved to financially isolate those two companies, alleging that they have supported the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Hong Kong Electronics "has also facilitated the movement of money from Iran to North Korea" on behalf of Korea Mining, an arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, the Treasury said. Tanchon, a commercial bank based in Pyongyang, is the financial arm of Korea Mining, the department said. "North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings, making it nearly impossible for responsible banks and governments to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate North Korean transactions," said Stuart Levey, the department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Just a few weeks ago, the department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network warned US banks that North Korea might try to financial sanctions by using various "deceptive practices." The warning was aimed at making sure North Korea doesn't evade UN Security Council sanctions intended to prevent the financing of nuclear, ballistic missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs or activities. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the deployment of a ground-based, mobile missile-intercept system and radar system to Hawaii amid concerns the North may fire a long-range missile toward the islands, about 7,200 kilometers away. North Korea launched a second nuclear test on May 25 that heightened global tensions.