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North Korea: Missile update. South Korean media reported yesterday an unidentified US official was reported to have said that North Korea has withdrawn two "Musudan" intermediate-range ballistic missiles from the district along the coast of the Japan Sea.

Today, Japanese media reported several unidentified Japanese, South Korean, and United States Government officials said that there have been some changes, but it is not a missile withdrawal.

One of the officials said: "It is a fact that there has been some movement, but we cannot say that the missiles have been withdrawn from the site on the Japan Sea." The official thus opined that the move merely means that North Korea changed the missile deployment site.

Another official said: "It is no more than a temporary lull in North Korea's provocations."

Comment: No sources retracted the information that the high combat readiness alert has been terminated. A force-wide return to constant combat readiness normally would include a return of deployed strategic missiles to storage.

On the other hand, Kim Jong Un does things differently. So the strategic rocket force might not have stood down. Kim himself is back on a peacetime schedule of making visits to civilian commercial enterprises.

China-North Korea: The South China Morning Post reported that the Bank of China has closed the account of North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, which the US has accused of financing North Korea's nuclear program.

The bank received notice yesterday that its account was closed and funds transfers were terminated, a Bank of China spokesperson said. She provided no reasons for the actions.

According to the Post, China's Ministry of Transport sent a circular notice on 25 April which ordered strict enforcement of all UN sanctions against North Korea.

Comment: Irregularities in financial transactions involving North Korean banks are commonplace and adequate justification for closing accounts. The timing of this closure and the Ministry circular indicate these measures represent economic pressure on North Korea to stop causing instability in northeast Asia.

The Chinese government will never admit to pressuring its closest ally. Thus, some alternative explanation probably will surface and it might even be true, just not all the truth.

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