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Countries discuss ways to tighten loopholes in N.K. sanctions

2016/04/25 19:02

SEOUL, April 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, along with the U.S., Japan and other partners, has been discussing ways to tighten the "loopholes" in the latest package of U.N. sanctions on North Korea as a response to Pyongyang's potential major provocations, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

His remarks came as Pyongyang was seen preparing for a fifth underground nuclear test at the Punggye-ri site in the country's northeast.

"From a broad perspective, there has been an atmosphere in favor of strengthening the sanctions in the event of an additional strategic provocation by North Korea," he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"Although Resolution 2270 is the toughest-ever sanctions slapped on the North, the atmosphere is that if there are loopholes, we should make maximum efforts to block them."

   In an unprecedented move, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution places a "sectoral ban" on the North's exports of coal and iron ore that comprise more than 40 percent of the country's exports to China, the North's largest trading partner.

But the ban is not applicable when export earnings are used for "livelihood purposes." Many have cited the "livelihood clause" as one of the loopholes the North could exploit to sell otherwise banned resources like coal to China.

The latest sanctions resolution was adopted early March in response to the North's nuclear test in January and long-range rocket test in February.

As for cooperation between Seoul and Washington over crafting additional sanctions to be slapped on the North in case of another nuclear test, the senior official stressed the allies have made "considerable" preparations.

"We (South Korea) have reviewed (additional sanctions) in detail and so has the U.S.," the official said. "We also believe that several other countries including Japan have made such preparations (against Pyongyang's nuclear test)."

   Touching on the possibility of an imminent nuclear test, the official said that the leadership in Pyongyang could conduct another nuclear test "at anytime" if it decides to do so.

Asked if any Chinese official would attend the North's much-publicized ruling party congress slated for May, the official gave a negative answer.

"As far as we understand, there are almost no officials from any meaningful countries who would attend the party congress," he said.

"Some countries, which have been invited to attend the congress, told us that they would not go. A relatively high-level official from a Southeast Asian state also said that he has no intention of attending the event."

   Pyongyang has been preparing for the first party congress in 36 years, an event where key party officials are expected to show off the country's political, military and economic achievements, and put forward a future direction of state management.

Foreign Ministry building (Yonhap) Foreign Ministry building (Yonhap)