Report: US to put its own sanctions on NKorea

SEOUL, South Korea – The United States will impose its own financial sanctions on North Korea apart from punishments that the U.N. has been considering for Pyongyang's latest nuclear test, a news report said Friday.

The U.S. sanctions call for blacklisting foreign financial institutions that help the North launder money and conduct other dubious deals, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg briefed the South Korean president on the new sanctions at a meeting Thursday, the mass-market paper said, citing an unidentified official at the presidential office. The U.S. Embassy in Seoul could not confirm the report.

Steinberg visited Beijing on Friday and met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, but no details about their discussion were immediately released.

Last week, Pyongyang conducted a barrage of missile launches and an underground nuclear test that violated previous U.N. Security Council sanctions. The North also appeared to be preparing for more missile tests, including one believed to be capable of reaching the U.S.

Many analysts believe economic sanctions against the isolated North will not be effective unless China actively implements them. Pyongyang relies heavily on China for food and energy aid and imports. More than 70 percent of the North's total trade is with China.

A U.S. measure imposed on Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau, in 2005 effectively led to the North being severed from the international financial system, as other institutions voluntarily severed their dealings with the bank and the North.

The measure hit the North hard, said Lee Sang-hyun, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank, south of Seoul. "Sanctioning North Korea has not worked except for one case, the BDA case, cutting off the financial flows," Lee said.

Japan was preparing to deploy PAC-3 land-to-air missile interceptors in case of a suspected North Korean missile launch, said Air Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff Kenichiro Hokazono in Tokyo. "We are making preparations so that we can mobilize the interceptors promptly," he said.

Meanwhile, the North was keeping quiet about its trial of two American journalists in its top court Friday on allegations they entered the country illegally and engaged in "hostile acts." North Korea's official news agency said the proceedings were to begin Thursday but no further details were available one day later.

The North has also been holding a South Korean detained in late March at a joint industrial complex in the northern border town of Kaesong. He was accused of slandering the communist regime.

The fate of the industrial zone — the last remaining major reconciliation project between the two — has been in doubt since last month, when the North threatened to scrap all contracts on running the zone and said it would write new rules. It said the South should accept its rules or leave.

On Friday, the South's Unification Ministry said it had agreed to hold working-level talks with the North next week to discuss the zone's fate.

Meanwhile in New York, ambassadors from key nations continued to try to reach an agreement on new U.N. sanctions against North Korea for defying the Security Council and conducting a second nuclear test. Closed-door meetings have been held since May 26.


Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim, William Foreman in Seoul, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Pamela Hess in Washington contributed to this report.

People look at the moon at the Temple of Hercules at the Citadel in Amman. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed