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US accuses Chinese company of transferring NKorean money

Associated Press logo Associated Press 16/06/2017 By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

BEIJING — China said Friday it doesn't want governments to extend their laws to cover other countries after Washington asked a court to seize $1.9 million from a Chinese company accused of helping North Korea evade financial sanctions.

The U.S. complaint Thursday comes as the administration of President Donald Trump tries to step up pressure on North Korea to give up nuclear weapons development.

The Justice Department accused Mingzheng International Trading Ltd., in the northeastern city of Shenyang, of conducting transactions for North Korea's state-owned Foreign Trade Bank. Their complaint said the bank is barred from the U.S. financial system under sanctions imposed in response to the North's nuclear weapons development.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had no details about the company but said Beijing "has been strictly and precisely implementing" U.N. sanctions.

However, Lu said the Foreign Trade Bank is not on the Security Council sanctions list.

"China opposes any country extending its long-arm jurisdiction over other countries based on so-called domestic law," he said.

Despite sanctions, experts say North Korea uses covert operations to obtain foreign currency and materials that can be used by its weapons program.

Beijing is the North's main source of aid and diplomatic support but has shown growing frustration with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Chinese officials told U.S. diplomats in May they had tightened inspections and policing along the border with North Korea, according to Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton.

Thursday's announcement said Mingzheng International Trading is accused of making transactions in October and November of 2015 on behalf of Foreign Trade Bank.

"Mingzheng acts as a front company for a covert Chinese branch of the Foreign Trade Bank," the announcement said. "This branch is operated by a Chinese national who has historically been tied to the Foreign Trade Bank."

It said the case would represent one of the largest U.S. seizures of North Korean funds. It gave no details of which U.S. financial institutions were used by Mingzheng International Trading.

There is no phone listing in Shenyang for Mingzheng International Trading. People who answered the phone at another company in Shenyang with a somewhat similar name, Mingchang Century Trading Ltd., hung up when asked about the U.S. accusation.

Chinese authorities announced in September they were investigating another company, Hongxiang Industrial Development Co., which foreign researchers said sold the North materials that can be used by its nuclear weapons program. The results have not been announced.

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