New sanctions put on North Korea
U.s. officials ratchet up pressure during visit to south korea, DmZ
SEOUL, South Korea — The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would impose further economic sanctions against North Korea, throwing legal weight behind a choreographed show of pressure on the North Koreans that included an unusual joint visit to the demilitarized zone by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The measures, announced here by Clinton after talks with South Korean officials, focus on counterfeiting, money laundering and other dealings that she said the North Korean government used to generate hard currency to cling to power.
While the United States already has heavy sanctions against North Korea, U.S. officials insisted that the new measures would further tighten the financial vise around North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who, according to regional intelligence, is in declining health.
The unilateral U.S. action came two months after a South Korean-led investigation found North Korea responsible for the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and the deaths of 46 sailors. Clinton demanded that North Korea take responsibility for the attack, saying it would continue to be a pariah until it did so. She ruled out any negotiations with the North Korean government until it agreed to relinquish its nuclear weapons. And she said that the United States would expand and stiffen its sanctions to “target their leadership, target their assets.”
“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered for too long due to the misguided and maligned priorities of their government,” Clinton said at a news conference, flanked by Gates and South Korea’s defense and foreign ministers. “They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government.”
Her announcement punctuated a visit rich in symbols of U.S. diplomacy and military might, organized to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. On Tuesday, the United States and South Korea confirmed that they would stage large-scale military exercises.
On Wednesday, Gates and Clinton traveled to Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between the countries, where they clambered up an observation post to peer into North Korea. “It is stunning how little has changed up there and yet how much South Korea continues to grow and prosper,” Gates said, noting that this was his third visit to the demilitarized zone — the first being in the early 1990s when he was director of central intelligence. It was Clinton’s first visit. “Although it may be a thin line,” she said, referring to the narrow strip of land separating the two sides, “these two places are worlds apart.”