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China to Sanction North Korean Officials Over Nuclear Tests

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China to Sanction North Korean Officials Over Nuclear Tests

July 14 — China agreed for the first time to punish senior North Korean government officials for defying United Nations resolutions barring nuclear and missile tests, China’s deputy ambassador said.

Ambassador Liu Zhenmin said his government would support imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on a “large percentage” of 15 North Korean officials proposed by the U.S. and other western nations as targets for UN sanctions.

Liu, in an interview yesterday, declined to identify the officials, other than to say they hold “senior” government positions and are working on nuclear and missile programs.

China’s acceptance of sanctions against North Korean officials and companies, as well as material that might contribute to the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, clears the way for Security Council action this week. Russia acquiesced last week, leaving the panel to await China’s decision. No government officials have been subject to the sanctions the Security Council adopted after North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006.

Ambassador Fazli Corman of Turkey, which chairs the Security Council committee charged with implementing the sanctions, said formal agreement by its 15 member governments would come within days.

Frozen Assets

The Security Council in April agreed to freeze the foreign assets of two North Korean companies and a bank and also said the government in Pyongyang was barred from acquiring items designated by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a coalition of 34 nations to curb proliferation of missile technology. It was the first time the 2006 sanctions had been enforced.

The Security Council last month adopted a resolution to punish North Korea for its May 25 nuclear bomb test and missile launches. The measure seeks to curb loans and money transfers to the communist nation and step up inspection of cargoes suspected of containing material that might contribute to the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

The text, adopted unanimously on June 12, called for a Security Council committee to designate additional entities, goods and persons to be subject to the 2006 travel ban and asset freeze. The committee was given 30 days to agree on the new targets of the sanctions.

North Korea was condemned by the Security Council after the government in Pyongyang launched several missiles earlier this month in defiance of the UN resolutions. North Korea fired four short- or medium-range missiles on July 2 and seven on July 4.

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North Korea ‘in final uranium phase’

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North Korea ‘in final uranium phase’

“Uranium enrichment tests have been successfully carried out and that process is in the concluding stage,” state media were quoted as saying.

If confirmed, the move would be in defiance of international pressure for the North to abandon its nuclear work.

The UN passed tougher sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang in May.

Both that test and an earlier nuclear test by North Korea in 2006 were understood to have been plutonium-based warheads.

Defiance

The North’s KCNA news agency reported that North Korea’s delegation at the United Nations had written to the Security Council, saying Pyongyang was now ready “for both sanctions and dialogue”.

“Reprocessing of spent fuel rods is at its final phase and extracted plutonium is being weaponised,” the AFP news agency reported the delegation as saying.

“If some permanent members of the UN Security Council wish to put sanctions first before dialogue, we would respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence first before we meet them in a dialogue,” the delegation said.

South Korea’s defence minister had warned in June that the North was going ahead with plans to enrich uranium, a step towards making nuclear weapons.

Observers say the US has long suspected the existence of a secret uranium enrichment programme in the North, though experts say it remains little-developed.

In the past few months, North Korea has fired a long-range rocket over Japanese territory and conducted an underground, plutonium-based nuclear test.

Renewed tensions

But more recently, the secretive communist nation has made more conciliatory gestures on the world stage.

Two US reporters and a South Korean worker were released from detention and Pyongyang said it was interested in resuming cross-border tourismand industrial projects with the South.

Less than two weeks ago, the first meeting between officials from the North and South for nearly two years took place unexpectedly in the southern capital, Seoul.

However, the latest communique indicated that the North was unhappy that the UN allowed South Korea to launch a satellite last month, after having condemned its own rocket launch in April, Reuters reported.

Correspondents said Pyongyang’s latest remarks appeared to seek once again to ratchet up tensions on the Korean peninsula


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Koreas restore regular cross-border traffic

South Korea Koreas Tension

Koreas restore regular cross-border traffic

SEOUL, South Korea – North and South Korea restored regular traffic across their heavily fortified border for their jointly run industrial park Tuesday in the latest sign of improved relations between the two, officials in Seoul said.

The North’s state radio station, meanwhile, quoted leader Kim Jong Il as saying that the U.S. should abandon its “hostile policy” toward the North and sign a peace treaty with the communist nation to reduce tension on the peninsula. His comments echoed statements he has made in the past. Pyongyang Radio didn’t say when Kim made the remarks.

The U.S. fought with South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, leaving the North and South still technically at war. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea as deterrence against the North. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Monday he had no comment on the matter.

The resumption of regular traffic between the neighbors for their joint industrial park in the North was the latest indication of efforts by Pyongyang to reach out to Seoul and Washington, after months of provocations that included nuclear and missile tests.

The North had severely restricted traffic across the border since December. The clampdown affected the flow of goods and personnel to and from the factory park in Kaesong.

The border will open 23 times a day to traffic to and from Kaesong, up from the previous six times, Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters Tuesday. The number of people and vehicles allowed to cross the border at one time will no longer be restricted, she said.

“I don’t have any sense of uneasiness,” Han Maeng-woo, a 53-year-old South Korean worker, said as he left for the industrial complex. He said his company will be able to resume investment that was suspended during the inter-Korean tensions.

Kaesong is home to some 110 South Korean-run factories that employ about 40,000 North Korean workers. The project is the most prominent symbol of the inter-Korean cooperation that prospered under two liberal South Korean presidents following the Koreas’ first-ever summit in 2000.

The reconciliation process and most joint projects came to a halt after conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office early last year. North Korea protested Lee’s tough policies, such as linking aid to the impoverished neighbor to nuclear disarmament.

But in August, Pyongyang freed two American journalists and a South Korean worker held for more than four months of detention, agreed to resume joint projects and set a date for the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.

Pyongyang also sent an official delegation to Seoul to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during the 2000 Korean summit.

The two sides agreed Friday to hold a new round of family reunions in late September. On Saturday, North Korea released four South Korean fishermen seized in late July after their boat strayed into northern waters.

Kelly said the U.S. is “encouraged by more dialogue between North and South.”

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