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US Discusses New Sanctions Against North Korea


The United States said Wednesday it is having diplomatic contacts on possible new sanctions against North Korea, under the U.N. resolution approved in July after Pyongyang's volley of missile tests. China said this week new sanctions may be counter-productive.

The Bush administration confirms it is having North Korea sanctions talks with other countries despite warnings from China and some U.S. analysts that new sanctions could back-fire.

In the first week of July, North Korea conducted a burst of missile tests including the apparent launch of an intercontinental-range missile that failed less than a minute after takeoff.

A unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution July 15 expressed grave concern about the firings, which ended a self-imposed test moratorium by Pyongyang.

The measure also called on U.N. member states to act to prevent the transfer to North Korea of missiles or related items or the transfer of financial resources that could assist its missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

The Bush administration last week sent Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill on a mission to Asia capped by talks on North Korea Wednesday in Beijing.

Briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Mr. Hill's talks in the region have included ways to implement the U.N. missile resolution:

"We are certainly having discussions about how to implement that resolution," said Sean McCormack. "And that resolution talks specifically about the responsibility of member states of the United Nations to, and this is the shorthand, basically not to in any way facilitate or assist the development of North Korea's WMD programs or their missile programs, and to seek to prevent the proliferation of said programs around the globe."

China warned earlier this week that sanctioning North Korea could be counter-productive, though Assistant Secretary Hill said Beijing's response to the arguments he made was positive.

Given the near-total lack of U.S. dealings with Pyongyang, it is unclear what new sanctions the Bush administration could impose, and officials here have not said what requests if any are being made to other governments.

A year ago, the U.S. Treasury department imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank that had served as a financial outlet for North Korea, because of alleged North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

North Korea has repeatedly cited those sanctions, levied against the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia, as the reason it has not returned to the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on its nuclear program.

In a Washington Post commentary Wednesday, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg, and Washington Asia scholar Donald Oberdorfer said further U.S. sanctions would be a grave mistake that could spur Pyongyang to test a nuclear weapon.

In a rejoinder, spokesman McCormack said he could did not buy the argument that misbehavior by North Korea is somehow caused by the United States or the broader international community.

He also said a nuclear test by North Korea would be a deeply provocative act that would only deepen the reclusive communist government's own isolation.