US ‘may freeze North Korea bank accounts’

(Times Online) – The United States may freeze a number of North Korean bank accounts believed to have been found in Malaysia, after Pyong Yang launched a volley of missiles over the weekend, according to reports.

Seven ballistic missiles were fired on July 4 in an apparent act of defiance against the US, further stoking regional tensions.

The missiles may have included three mid-range Rodong missiles capable of hitting all of South Korea and most of Japan, Yonhap news agency in Seoul reported, adding that the missiles flew about 280 miles (450 km).

"We found five of the seven missiles fell near the same spot in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), which indicates that their accuracy has improved," a South Kroean official told Yonhap.

It was the biggest barrage of ballistic missiles the North has fired since it launched seven, including its longest-range Taepodong-2, in 2006 near the July 4 holiday.

The missiles were launched from a base on North Korea's east coast. Three were fired in the morning, a fourth around noon local time and three more in the afternoon, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, condemned the launches and said it was vital that "tension on the Korean peninsula [was] kept at manageable levels".

China and Russia called for calm, and urged Pyong Yang to reurn to six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear programme.

Both South Korea and Japan called the launches an "act of provocation".

The launches came as the United States cracked down on firms suspected of helping the North in its trade in arms and missiles, which were subject to UN sanctions imposed after Pyong Yang tested a nuclear bomb on its soil

The UN Security Council has barred North Korea from firing ballistics and last month passed a resolution allowing interception and inspection of all shipments into and out of the country, which are suspected of carrying weapons technology.

Since its nuclear test, North Korea has launched a number of missile tests, withn a number fired last Thursday before the July 4 volley.

North Korea is thought to have an arsenal of more than 600 Scud-type missiles, including the Hwasong-5, with a range of about 300 km and the Hwasong-6, with a range of about 500 km.

Yonhap today claimed the US might have found several bank accounts in Malaysia suspected of belonging to North Korea and could freeze them as part of the crackdown, quoting an unidentified source in Washington.

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, the US coordinator for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, would discuss the banks with officials in Malaysia, Yonhap reported.