US ready to ease financial restrictions on NKorea

The United States plans to recommend the release of a significant amount of frozen North Korean bank accounts, officials say, apparently as an enticement to keep North Korea from reneging on its pledge to scrap nuclear weapons. The Treasury Department could announce as early as next week that several million dollars (euros) connected to North Korea are not tainted by links to illegal nuclear proliferation or allegations of counterfeiting, smuggling and other crimes. The US move is expected to prompt overseas bank regulators to make available to Kim Jong Il's government $8 million (€6.1 million) to $12 million (€9.1 million) from about $24 million (€18.2 million) in blocked assets, one official said. Treasury and State Department officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe results of a continuing Treasury review.