A senior US Justice Department official accused China on Thursday of helping North Korea launder money. In the face of international sanctions, North Korea has been raising money through massive cyber theft.
Speaking at an event hosted by a Washington think tank, Assistant Attorney General For National security John Demers also said North Korea could draw support from China for cyber expertise and training.
“The other thing… In our case, it stands out… China is involved in helping North Korea evade sanctions, helping them launder money that they somehow got, or that they wanted to bring into the regime, or that they stole, or whatever, and helping them move goods, “Demers said.
“China’s cyber infrastructure provides support and may also provide support in terms of sharing expertise and training,” he added at the cSIS event.
Those suspected of violating international sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs include unethical individuals and companies, Demers said.
“But probably the biggest problem will be countries like China… Don’t want North Korea to fail, “he said.
Demers added that China is playing a “balancing role” because it is also “not very interested in an overly aggressive North Korea” — an apparent reference to Beijing’s public opposition to the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
He said China has joined international sanctions against North Korea for its opposition to its nuclear program while secretly aiding the north in violation of those sanctions. He said the point is that countries like China do not want North Korea to fail.
In March, the Justice Department charged two Chinese citizens with laundering more than $100 million in cryptocurrency on behalf of North Korea, and detailed Pyongyang’s use of hackers to evade sanctions.
Demers’ remarks appeared to be a further hint of Chinese government involvement, a charge that comes as the Trump administration ramps up its attacks on China in the run-up to the November 3 U.S. presidential election.
Asked to comment, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington told Reuters that China had been implementing UN resolutions on North Korea, adding: “I am not aware of the situation you mentioned.”
“The Chinese government is a firm defender of cyber security and firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks and cyber crimes in accordance with the law,” the spokesman said.
North Korea stole money from Banks and cryptocurrency exchanges through “extensive and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks last year, generating an estimated $2bn in revenue for its weapons programme, according to UN experts overseeing enforcement of the sanctions.
Experts say North Korea has continued to carry out such attacks around the world this year and are investigating how Pyongyang has purged virtual assets.