The U.S. government is considering labeling North Korea as a money-laundering state to pave the way for sanctions after Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said Washington is weighing the measure under the Patriot Act.
Article 311 of the Patriot Act was created following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and authorizes the U.S. Commerce Department to identify an individual, financial institution or state as a "primary money-laundering concern." This would ban the target from transacting business with any system that handles U.S. dollars.
This measure is much tougher than the freezing by the Bush administration in 2005 of around US$25 million held in some 50 North Korean bank accounts at Banco Delta Asia in Macao.