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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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N.Korea says in last stage of enriching uranium

N Korea (Kim Jong Il)

N.Korea says in last stage of enriching uranium

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SEOUL  – North Korea said on Friday it was closer to a second way of making nuclear weapons, a move analysts saw as a new tactic to put pressure on the international community after a month of conciliatory gestures.

The chief U.S. envoy for the North, Stephen Bosworth, said the enrichment claim was “of concern”, while Russia described the announcement as “very alarming”.

Bosworth was in Beijing on a trip to Asia to discuss ways to bring Pyongyang back to long-stalled negotiations on giving up its nuclear ambitions.

“Experimental uranium enrichment has successfully been conducted to enter into completion phase,” the North’s KCNA news agency quoted its United Nations delegation as saying in a letter to the head of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC).

The United States has long suspected the North of having a secret programme to enrich uranium for weapons. Experts have said it has not developed anything near a full-scale uranium programme while it has enough plutonium for six to eight bombs.

“I think for all of us, it reconfirms the necessity to maintain a coordinated position on the need for complete, verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” Bosworth said, after meetings with Chinese officials.

The North said its latest steps were in response to tighter sanctions.

“These reports cannot but provoke concern,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying

“A very alarming precedent is being created by such an open and demonstrative disdain for resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

At the United Nations, the mission of the United States, which currently holds the Security Council presidency, said it had received the North Korean letter and circulated it to the other 14 members of the council.

U.N. sanctions have hurt the impoverished North’s arms trade, one of its few significant exports, and analysts said it may be angered its latest attempts at conciliation with the outside world have been largely rebuffed.

The United States has refused to ease up on the sanctions, and sent its point man for their enforcement to Asia last month to build support.

“Now they (North Korea) are taking the road that they know will drive a response out of all countries — the military way — and leaving them to decide what to do,” said Cho Myung-chul, an expert on the North at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

North Korea added that reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods was at its final phase and extracted plutonium was being weaponised.

“We are prepared for both dialogue and sanctions. If some permanent members of the UNSC wish to put sanctions first before dialogue, we would respond with bolstering our nuclear deterrence first before we meet them in a dialogue.”

In another move that serves as a reminder of the tension on the divided peninsula, a North Korean patrol vessel crossed briefly into the South’s waters on Friday but returned without incident, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“They are taking a mixed strategy, which I would call the sweet and sour approach. This keeps their adversaries guessing and it makes it more difficult to formulate policy,” said Peter Beck, research fellow at Stanford University and a specialist on Korean affairs.

Market players, used to North Korea blowing hot and cold, said the latest rumblings had little impact on early trading.

Pyongyang laid the blame squarely on the U.N. Security Council for imposing sanctions over its rocket launch in April and ignoring one by South Korea late last month.

“Had the UNSC, from the very beginning, not made an issue of the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) peaceful satellite launch in the same way as it kept silent over the satellite launch conducted by South Korea on August 25, 2009, it would not have compelled the DPRK to take strong counteraction such as its 2nd nuclear test.

Pyongyang said its launch was to put a communications satellite into space. Others said it was to test a ballistic missile with the potential to hit U.S. territory.

The North has already tested two plutonium-based nuclear devices, the one in May triggering tightened international sanctions.

It reiterated on Friday its opposition to six-country talks over its nuclear weapons programme, talks it walked away from last December. The talks among the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States offered Pyongyang massive aid and an end to isolation if it gives up efforts to build an atomic arsenal.

North Korea in the past month released two U.S. journalists, a South Korean worker and fishermen it had held in separate incidents. It ended border restrictions it placed on the South and sought to resume frozen business projects with its neighbour.

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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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