U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new financial sanctions Wednesday targeting North Korea's ruling elite as part of measures against the Stalinist country for sinking the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.
"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government," Clinton said after security talks with U.S. and South Korean defense and military officials. "They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government."
The sanctions cover largely well-trodden ground, freezing the assets of individuals and groups that support the proliferation of nuclear weapons and stopping banks from engaging in illicit activities supporting the shadowy deals of North Korean trading companies. The U.S. government says it has been tracking the flow of money North Korea earns from counterfeiting and dealing in drugs, contraband cigarettes and weapons, and is trying to prevent North Korea's leadership from using that money to buy luxury goods and components to produce nuclear weapons.
Clinton cited a successful U.S. freeze in 2005 of US$25 million of North Korean assets stashed in the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia. The U.S. will send Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, to Seoul to discuss additional sanctions. Clinton said the measures will bolster UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 imposing economic sanctions against the North by pinpointing and pressuring groups engaged in proliferation or other illegal activities.
The aim, according to a South Korean diplomatic source, is to apply dual pressure on North Korea through U.S.-led sanctions on top of the UN resolutions. Clinton said the U.S. will also slap travel bans on individuals engaged in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. North Korean diplomats are abusing their diplomatic immunity, she added, and the U.S. will would take steps against them.
In a joint statement, the defense and foreign ministers of South Korea and the U.S. "urged North Korea to take responsibility" for the Cheonan attack. "They also called upon North Korea to refrain from further attacks or hostilities" against South Korea "and underscored that there would be serious consequences for any such irresponsible behavior."
Regarding a joint naval drill between South Korea and the U.S. to be held starting Sunday, the officials said they are "committed to maintain a robust combined defense posture capable of deterring and defeating any and all North Korean threats."