US targets China firms helping North Korea

The People's Republic of China flag and the US Stars and Stripes fly along Pennsylvania Avenue near the US Capitol in Washington during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit in this Jan 18, 2011 file photo.
The People's Republic of China flag and the US Stars and Stripes fly along Pennsylvania Avenue near the US Capitol in Washington during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit in this Jan 18, 2011 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • The United States government is planning to seize more assets from Chinese companies that it says laundered money for North Korea, using information uncovered in its investigation of the Chinese mobile-phone maker ZTE Corp, according to people familiar with the matter.

That would be the third round of asset seizures by the Trump administration as tensions mount between the US and China over missile and nuclear tests conducted by North Korea, a China ally.

The US may also add companies to its list of Chinese entities under sanction, the people said.

The actions are expected in the coming weeks, they said without identifying the companies.

The new actions would coincide with an intensifying effort to punish North Korea. After Pyongyang detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb yet on Sunday, President Donald Trump threatened to halt all trade with any country that does business with the Kim Jong Un regime. The US is also circulating a draft United Nations resolution that would impose new trade curbs.

The South Korean government has said North Korea may launch its next missile today, the anniversary of its founding.

ZTE, once the scourge of the US authorities for its violations of Iran sanctions, has become a key source of evidence about North Korea's use of the American financial system to launder money, said the people who did not want to be named.

Federal investigators have been poring over data supplied by ZTE to find links to companies that North Korea has used to tap the US banking system, the people said.

The unlikely alliance between ZTE and the US authorities was forged after the company came under scrutiny by the US Commerce Department and Justice Department for secretly doing business with Iran.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'US targets China firms helping North Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe