*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)
U.S. Announces Additional Sanctions on North Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 30 blacklisted several more North Korean entities and North Korean citizens for their involvement in weapons of mass destruction and other activities banned by U.N. resolutions.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order to "expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008," to reinforce existing sanctions on North Korea. The U.S. currently blacklists more than 20 North Korean entities and individuals.
Under the latest order, Washington added a total of eight North Korean entities and four individuals to its sanctions blacklist for their alleged involvement in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, trade in conventional arms, procurement of luxury goods and other illicit activities.
Among the North Korean entities and individuals newly listed by executive orders 13466 and 13382 are "Office 39" of the North's ruling Workers' Party, believed to manage slush funds for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and Ri Je-son and Ri Hong-sop of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy.
Also on the list are the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's premiere intelligence organization, suspected of being involved in the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, and Green Pine Associated Corp., the Korea Taesong Trading Co. and Korea Heungjin Trading Co.
The U.S. announcement of new sanctions came just hours after Beijing and Pyongyang announced Kim's surprise trip to China, the neighboring ally that has provided the impoverished and provocative North with food and energy aid as well as diplomatic protection.
Kim held a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Aug. 27, pledging to further bolster their traditional ties. China has a track record of blunting international sanctions on North Korea by giving the neighboring regime assistance through back doors.
The new executive order takes note of the "unprovoked attack" on the Cheonan, which resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors in March, and North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, which "destabilize the Korean Peninsula and imperil U.S. Armed Forces, allies and trading partners in the region."
It also cites North Korean actions in violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, "including the procurement of luxury goods; and its illicit and deceptive activities in international markets through which it obtains financial and other support, including money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking."
Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control who oversees U.S. sanctions on North Korea and Iran, visited Seoul early in August and is likely to fly to Beijing early in September to seek Chinese support for new sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
The sanctions on North Korea are seen as less stringent than those on Iran, as Washington did not embody them in laws as it did with Iran.
Some analysts say the U.S. is looking for a way to end the showdown with North Korea over the Cheonan incident, noting that in 2005 Washington had difficulty unfreezing US$25 million in North Korean assets at Macau's Banco Delta Asia due to technical matters. That significantly delayed the resumption of the six-party talks at the time.
U.S. officials said they will try to persuade the international community to voluntarily cut off ties with listed North Korean entities and individuals amid concerns that sanctions will be ineffective without support from China.
Beijing is also considered a key to effective sanctions on Pyongyang because it is a lifeline to its impoverished communist neighbor, providing fuel, food and other necessities. China has been reluctant to slap sanctions on North Korea, focusing instead on reviving the six-party nuclear talks.
South Korea welcomed fresh U.S. sanctions on North Korea, saying the move shows the communist nation that there are consequences for its bad behavior.
"The United States has said there would be consequences for North Korea's bad behavior, and I think the sanctions announcement showed it through specific action," a South Korean government official said on customary condition of anonymity.
The new additions to the blacklist are divided into two groups -- those added under an existing anti-WMD executive order and the others listed under a new executive order targeting Pyongyang's trade in conventional arms, luxury goods and other illicit activities.
The sanctions themselves are not expected to have much impact on Pyongyang, as the communist nation has few assets and financial transactions in the U.S. But they could prove painful if Washington's blacklisting leads to financial institutions in other nations, halting dealings with targeted entities, analysts said.
Officials in Seoul have said that the success of the new sanctions will depend on how much cooperation Washington can get from other nations in carrying out the measures.
The new U.S. sanctions against North Korea are highly symbolic as they target Pyongyang's leadership, but it is unclear how hard they will hit the communist regime that has already been under an array of international sanctions, analysts said.
A government official in Seoul said that Office 39 is called Kim Jong-il's "personal safe" for its role in raising and managing secret funds and procuring luxury goods for the reclusive leader. The Reconnaissance General Bureau has also been suspected of orchestrating March's ship sinking.
As China steps up efforts to reopen the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, Washington could move gradually toward that direction.
Beijing's chief nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, visited Pyongyang earlier in August and won the North's consent to push for a "three-step" resumption of the nuclear talks that involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.
Wu has been on a tour of the dialogue partners. He was in Seoul and Tokyo, and is scheduled to visit Washington to push for resuming the negotiations that have been stalled since the last session in late 2008.
"North Korea is already under almost all possible sanctions. Additional measures will be to fill possible holes in the net of the sanctions," a senior South Korean official said recently on condition of anonymity. "The question is how stringently they will be implemented."
Another official agreed that there are too many sanctions already in place against the North and that little can be done to force China to join the campaign. Still, the new measures could cause Pyongyang some pain, the official said.
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