News / Asia

Seoul Welcomes Fresh US Sanctions on Pyongyang

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South Korea welcomes additional sanctions the United States will impose on North Korea. They are part of the international effort to restrain the North's illegal nuclear weapons development and other illicit activities.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry says the new sanctions are a positive move, demonstrating the consequences for Pyongyang's bad behavior.

The new sanctions, imposed Monday, target several North Korean companies and government agencies, and four individuals. They are accused of being involved in illicit activities, including acquiring nuclear weapons technology.

U.S. officials stress the new sanctions are not meant to cause hardship for the impoverished North Korean people. Rather they target the flow of luxury items - including automobiles, liquor and gourmet foods - to the country's elite.

Yang Mu-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, calls the new American measures politically symbolic. But, he says, without China's support, they will not be very effective.

Yang says North Korea will likely criticize the sanctions but will not retaliate. Instead it will put more effort on working with Beijing to re-start the six-party talks about North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The United States unveiled the expanded sanctions hours after North Korean state media confirmed that leader Kim Jong Il had just visited China for the second time in four months.

A North Korean radio newscast gave the details of the visit and Mr. Kim's discussions with China's President Hu Jintao.

"The top leaders of the two [Communist] parties and the two countries informed each other of the situations in their countries and had a frank exchange of views," the broadcast stated.

The broadcast listed officials accompanying Mr. Kim. But his third son, Kim Jong Un, was not mentioned, in spite of speculation he went along to be introduced to Chinese leaders as Mr. Kim's successor.

The newscast, however, alluded to the issue. It quoted Mr. Kim telling President Hu that he is on "an important historical mission to hand over to the rising generation the baton of the tradition of Korea-China friendship."

Mr. Kim visited China even though tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high because of the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March. An international investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo for the incident, which Pyongyang denies.

South Korean media report the country's navy will conduct new drills in the Yellow Sea with U.S. forces starting Sunday. Both countries say a series of war games over the past few months are meant to send a message of deterrence to North Korea.

There are recent signs, however, that Seoul and Washington are willing to engage Pyongyang in renewed dialogue.

South Korea Tuesday offered emergency aid to the North after recent flooding there. Seoul also has indicated it will not demand an apology for the sinking of its ship before talks about ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs can resume.

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