China Allowed to Use Another North Korean Port: Official
SHENYANG, China, (Yonhap) -- China has acquired the rights to use another one of North Korea's northeastern ports, signaling deepening economic ties between the ideological allies, a Chinese official said on July 22.
China has used the North Korean port of Rajin in North Hamgyong Province for commercial trade since 2008. An official at the Tumen city in northeast China said that a Chinese state company has now also obtained the rights to use the port of Chongjin, about 70 kilometers south of Rajin.
South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles North Korea affairs, said it could not immediately confirm the comments by the Chinese official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit to Beijing earlier this year, the two countries have been strengthening their economic cooperation. China is the foremost ally of the cash-strapped North, which is under deepening sanctions for its nuclear testing.
The Chinese official also said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that North Korea and China have also agreed to allow Chinese companies to use North Korea's railways from Tumen to Chonjin.
The series of agreements would "facilitate trade from Tumen," the official said, adding the Chinese company that struck the deal to use the port of Chongjin will use it to carry out shipping agreements with three Chinese companies.
Hong Kong to Continue Implementing U.N. Sanctions on N. Korea
HONG KONG (Yonhap) -- The government of Hong Kong affirmed its commitment on July 23 to continue implementing punitive U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions.
"Hong Kong will continue to exercise vigilance in enforcing our regulation to effectively implement the United Nations Security Coucil sanctions against DPRK (North Korea)," Josephine Lo, an official at the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the Hong Kong government, told Yonhap News, using the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Our law enforcement agencies will take appropriate actions on those found in violation of the laws," she said.
The comment was made after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement on July 28 that the U.S. will hit North Korea with a new set of sanctions to punish it for its sinking of a South Korean warship and prevent it from further provocations.
Those sanctions will "strengthen our enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874" adopted after North Korea's first and second nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, Clinton said at a joint press conference in Seoul after a meeting with South Korea's foreign and defense ministers.
Hong Kong legislated what is called the U.N. Sanctions Regulation in June 2007 to implement the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, according to Lo.
In January, Hong Kong amended the regulation to implement the new and expanded sanctions against North Korea under the Security Council Resolution 1874, she said.
A source in Hong Kong said earlier on July 23 that the U.S. has identified about 200 bank accounts with links to North Korea, and that the country is expected to freeze some 100 of those suspected of being used for weapons exports and other illicit purposes banned under U.N. resolutions.
The U.S. State Department said the U.S. will carry out new sanctions within two weeks to cut off money from illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and counterfeit currency or luxury goods flowing into the North Korean leadership.
North Korea has bristled at the announcement of new sanctions and Seoul's plan to conduct large-scale joint naval exercises with the U.S., claiming the moves pose grave threats to regional peace.
U.S. Closely Watching Front Companies for N. Korea to Evade Sanctions
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States said on July 26 it is closely looking at front companies North Korea has been using to evade international sanctions imposed after its nuclear and missile tests early last year.
"This is something that we watch carefully," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said while responding to the report that Washington has found more than 100 North Korean accounts in foreign banks involved in illicit activities. "We're looking to identify front companies which help North Korea evade existing sanctions."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that Washington will blacklist more North Korean entities and individuals to cut off money flowing to its leaders through the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and counterfeit and luxury goods in violation of U.N. resolutions.
"As the secretary announced last week, we're going to take additional steps," Crowley said. "We'll have more to say about that in the next couple of weeks."
Crowley did not comment on reports that Pyongyang might conduct a third nuclear test, following underground detonations in 2006 and 2009.
"I can't really answer that question without getting into intelligence matters," the spokesman said. "But as we've made clear, the military exercises that are under way are defensive in nature. And what we would like to see from North Korea are fewer provocative words and more constructive actions."
Obama Urged to Engage in Direct, High-level Dialogue with N. Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. senator on July 27 called on the Obama administration to engage in direct high-level dialogue with North Korea to break the impasse on nuclear talks and ease heightening tensions after the North's sinking of a South Korean warship.
Speaking to a forum in Washington to mark the anniversary of the armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), called for "engaging in direct, candid, high-level dialogue" with North Korea with the goal being "to test whether North Korea is prepared to take concrete steps to return to the path of denuclearization and peace."
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also demanded that the Obama administration "remain equally ready to pursue a peaceful, negotiated solution to the underlying security challenges that have kept the Korean Peninsula locked in a Cold War for far too long, even as we are fully prepared to deter and defend against any North Korean aggression, a fact underscored by upcoming joint military exercises and the delay of the planned transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea."
Both Seoul and Washington have called on Pyongyang to forswear further provocations and demonstrate its denuclearization pledge before returning to the six-party talks, which the North has boycotted since early last year, when the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that a new round of the nuclear talks "is not something we're looking at yet," citing no commitment by the North to halt provocative actions or forswear nuclear weapons.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi demanded on July 23 that all parties concerned "turn the page" on the Cheonan incident toward an early revival of the six-party talks.
North Korea insists on the removal of sanctions and the signing of a peace treaty to replace the armistice as conditions to returning to the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
A sustained diplomatic engagement still "remains the best way to convince North Korea to change its dangerous and destabilizing pattern of behavior," Kerry said. "Strategic patience, the popular shorthand for the administration's North Korea policy, must not be allowed to turn into strategic indifference."
"We must help illuminate the path to peace -- making clear the ways in which South Korea, the United States, and other members of the six-party talks stand ready to address the North's legitimate security concerns and assist in its economic revival provided that its ceases its hostile actions, take credible, verifiable steps to abandon once and for all its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and resume a good faith dialogue to address the many issues left unresolved when the Korean War ground to a halt 57 years ago," the senator said.
U.S. Officials to Focus on 'Framework' of N.K. Sanctions in Seoul Next Week
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- U.S. officials are expected to focus on the "framework" of additional sanctions on North Korea when they come to Seoul next week, a diplomatic source here said on July 27.
Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, is expected to arrive in Seoul with a delegation that includes officials from the defense and treasury departments and the National Security Council. The visit is part of the delegation's anticipated travel through Japan, Malaysia and Singapore as Washington seeks their cooperation in tightening the financial noose around North Korea.
The U.S. officials will meet their South Korean counterparts at the foreign and the finance ministries, according to sources here. It wasn't determined whether they will also hold talks with Seoul's financial regulators.
"The (U.S.) officials will talk about how to add and execute new sanctions," the diplomatic source said. "Their discussions will be mostly about forms and means of sanctions, rather than about sharing any new intelligence on North Korea."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Seoul last week that Washington will impose new sanctions on Pyongyang's leaders as punishment for the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March. The U.S. has reportedly identified some 200 bank accounts linked to North Korea and was expected to freeze about half of them suspected of being used in weapons exports.
Seoul and its allies blame the North for the torpedo attack on the warship Cheonan that killed 46 sailors. North Korea denies any role in the sinking.
In Washington, a diplomatic source told reporters that the new sanctions would be carried out in three phases, starting with a new list of North Korean companies or individuals subject to sanctions to ultimately have financial institutions in third countries halt dealings with them.
The U.S. will sever ties with institutions that do not cooperate, the source said.
In 2005, the U.S. designated Macau-based Banco Delta Asia as being linked to the North's illicit financial activities. The move effectively froze some US$25 million in North Korean accounts at the bank and ostracized the bank in the international financial community.
Last summer, the U.S. froze assets of North Korean companies for their suspected involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs and banned U.S. firms and individuals from doing business with them.