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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. agree to continue sanctions efforts against North, Iran

2013/07/30 16:38

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; AMENDS throughout)

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States agreed Tuesday to continue their cooperation on implementing sanctions against nuclear-ambitious North Korea while seeking further assistance from China in pushing for the anti-Pyongyang sanctions, Seoul's foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The agreement came as David S. Cohen, the visiting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, met with Seoul's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun and Cho Tae-yong, the chief negotiator to the long-stalled six-party talks.

"The two sides agreed to keep up their close cooperation after discussing ways to raise collaboration on anti-North Korea sanctions," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho Tai-young said after the talks.

"Assessing China's efforts in implementing the United Nations Security Council resolution against the North is crucial, they agreed to further strengthen cooperation with China down the road," Cho said, adding Seoul also requested U.S. measures to help minimize damage Washington's anti-Iran sanctions could inflict on South Korean companies.

The spokesman did not provide further details, but the visit by the top anti-terrorism sanctions official came as the countries seek ways to secure tight implementation of anti-Pyongyang sanctions even amid the North's widening gestures to reopen disarmament talks with neighbors.

During the Tuesday meeting, the U.S. anti-terrorism sanctions expert is believed to have discussed ways to close loopholes in some Southeast Asian nations in implementing U.N.- and U.S.-imposed sanctions. North Korea reportedly still has access to some Southeast Asian ports, notably in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as routes of transporting prohibited weaponry.

A Seoul ministry official said the latest meeting is intended for "general discussion" on anti-Pyongyang sanctions between the two allies. "The (Seoul) government maintains the policy stance that it will use both talks and pressure in order to induce changes from the North," the official said.

"The visit is to continue our close collaboration with the South Korean government on the most important security issues like the proliferation threats from North Korea and from Iran," Cohen said late Monday after arriving in Seoul.

Also on Tuesday, Cohen was to meet Seoul's Deputy Finance Minister Eun Sung-soo in order to discuss Washington's sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programs.

Cohen's Seoul visit is part of his Asia trip, which brought him to Japan first. He was scheduled to leave South Korea Tuesday evening for his visits to Singapore and Malaysia. It also follows his previous visit here in late March.

Just days after the U.N. Security Council in March adopted a unanimous resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea for its February nuclear test, the U.S. blacklisted North Korean banks and key officials as part of its own sanctions against the nuclear arms possessor.

In late March, Cohen flew to South Korea, Japan and China to rally cooperation for the sanctions implementation.

The March visit was followed by the Bank of China's announcement in May that it is shutting down dealings with North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, the main foreign exchange channel for Pyongyang. The North Korean bank was blacklisted by the U.S. in March.

The sanctions-tightening efforts by the countries come despite reviving hopes for the resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks, designed to persuade the North to discard its nuclear programs in return for external economic aids.

North Korea's point man on the six-party talks Kim Kye-gwan has recently visited China and Russia, and rallied the countries' support for resuming the six-way talks as soon as possible.

But Seoul and Washington insist that the North should first show sincere commitments in order to restart the multilateral aid-for-disarmament talks involving aforementioned nations plus Japan.

pbr@yna.co.kr

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