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US, China call for new UN sanctions on N.Korea
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) March 5, 2013

US must choke off N. Korea access to cash: experts
Washington (AFP) March 5, 2013 - US policy has failed to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions and Washington must now seek tighter sanctions to cut off access to hard currency for the country's elite, experts said Tuesday.

While the isolated authoritarian state is already under heavy global sanctions, the experts told US lawmakers that Pyongyang has raised billions of dollars through such things as smuggling arms and precious metals.

"We must go after Kim Jong-un's illicit activities like we went after organized crime in the United States: identify the network, interdict shipments and disrupt the flow of money," said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"North Korea is uniquely vulnerable to targeted financial sanctions, because unlike any other authoritarian government in the world, the regime is so dependent on such illicit streams of revenue," expert Sung-Yoon Lee agreed.

"Damming, if not all, even some of those streams of revenue would achieve secondary, tertiary effects... that would lead to a rise in the number of disgruntled men in the North Korean party bureaucracy, military."

North Korea's neighbor and main ally, China is also still helping to support the Pyongyang regime financially, and probably exports about a billion dollars of goods a year to North Korea.

But this may be changing, however.

"Things are tightening up on China," said Joseph DeTrani, former US special envoy to the six-party talks and now president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

"I think China's looking at things very closely. So I think the Kim Jong-un government is looking at some significant financial problems."

US lawmakers debated the issue as the United States and China called on the UN Security Council to sanction North Korean diplomats and "illicit" cash transfers following Pyongyang's third nuclear test.

Maybe as much as 40 percent of North Korea's roughly $40 billion economy comes from such activities, estimated Lee, assistant professor in Korean studies at Tufts University.

He urged the US administration to designate the whole North Korean government a primary money laundering concern.

Such a move would give the US Treasury special powers to force banks to take tough precautions against Pyongyang's revenues. He also said Treasury should be given investigate powers to follow the money.

The US should also draft a new law expanding what is considered a banned activity by Pyongyang including the import of luxury goods and sales of military arms.

David Asher, senior fellow at the Center for New American Security and former State Department senior advisor on East Asian affairs, said sanctions were biting already.

But he warned North Korea "has been aggressively exporting monetary and nonmonetary gold" which could have raised as much as a billion dollars.

"If you're trying to tighten up the financial effect against North Korea, you need to look at these tradable precious metals as a sanctioned item."

He argued Washington should also consider covert actions "to actively undermine the North Korean nuclear program" saying the goal of "a complete, verified, irreversible disarmament" had become "a fantasy."

"The leadership in Pyongyang will not make concessions on its nuclear and missile programs unless it is confronted with a credible threat that calls into question the need for its continued existence," agreed Lee.

The United States and China on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to sanction North Korean diplomats and "illicit" cash transfers to step up pressure on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

But the isolated North fueled tensions, threatening to scrap an armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War and warning that it could launch "strong" counter-measures against what it called US hostility.

US ambassador Susan Rice circulated the text of a sanctions resolution to the other 14 members of the Security Council on Tuesday. Diplomats said a vote could be held on Thursday.

The proposed measures would "take the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea to the next level, breaking new ground and imposing significant new legal obligations," Rice told reporters after the closed council meeting.

"For the first time ever, this resolution targets the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, illicit transfers of bulk cash and new travel restrictions."

She said that if passed, the measures "will significantly impede North Korea's ability to develop further its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

The United States and China have been negotiating the measures since the North staged its third nuclear test on February 12.

The Security Council imposed strong sanctions after the North's weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. These were expanded after the North launched a long-range rocket in December in breach of UN resolutions.

Diplomats said there had been "tough talks" between the United States and China on the proposed sanctions hammered out by Rice and China's UN envoy Li Baodong.

Li told reporters there had been "some different views" on how to respond but added that China supports Security Council action.

China opposes North Korea's nuclear test and the international community has "got to bring an end to that program. That's why we need a strong signal," Li said.

"We think that action should be proportionate, should be balanced and focus on bringing down the tension and focusing on the diplomatic track," Li added.

Rice said that the proposed resolution vows "further significant measures in the event of another launch or nuclear test."

But ahead of the meeting North Korea threatened to scrap the historic armistice that has helped keep the peace on the Korean peninsula for the past six decades.

The North's military said in a statement that it would cut off a military hotline in the truce village of Panmunjom, which straddles the heavily fortified border with South Korea.

It also threatened "strong" additional countermeasures in response to what it called US hostility.

The armistice will be "completely" nullified from March 11, when military exercises by South Korean and US forces get into full swing, said the statement.

The annual Foal Eagle exercise began on March 1 and will run until April 30, involving more than 10,000 US troops and a far greater number of South Korean military.

Pyongyang habitually denounces such drills as a provocative rehearsal for invasion. The North has threatened in the past to scrap the armistice at times of high tension.

Pyongyang's February 12 nuclear test was the most powerful it has conducted yet. Diplomats and experts have said it is possible a new test could be staged.

"It remains our hope that they will change course and recognize that a denuclearized Korean peninsula is in the interest not only of North Korea but of international peace and security," said Rice.

But she added "the more provocations that occur, the more isolated and impoverished, sadly, North Korea will become."

The UN Security Council already has one of its toughest sanctions regimes ever imposed against North Korea.

In 2006, it ordered an embargo on arms and material for ballistic missiles. It also banned exports of luxury goods and named North Korean individuals and companies to be subject to a global assets freeze and travel ban.

In 2009, the council banned North Korea's weapons exports and ordered all countries to search suspect shipments.


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US shrugs off N. Korea armistice threat
Washington (AFP) March 5, 2013
The United States warned North Korea against provocations Tuesday, using a standard linguistic formula to shrug off Pyongyang's threat to scrap the armistice which ended the Korean war. North Korea's latest saber-rattling came hours before the United States and China made a joint call for tightened sanctions on the isolated state following its third nuclear test on February 12. "The DPRK ... read more

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