*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)
International Community Ready to Take New Sanctions on N. Korea for Nuke Test
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) decided on March 7 to impose additional sanctions on North Korea for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, heralding "toughest" sanctions against the socialist country, which has defied repeated international warnings.
Resolution 2094 unanimously passed by the 15-member council calls for the international community to ratchet up punitive steps to curb North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. said the new binding resolution will "bite hard."
Under the resolution, U.N. member states are required to inspect all of North Korea's maritime and air cargo "within or transiting through their territory" if it's believed to contain illicit items.
The resolution calls on states to deny any North Korean vessel entry to their ports or airfields if the vessel has refused to be inspected.
It also calls for "appropriate measures to prohibit financial institutions within their territories or under their jurisdiction from opening representative offices or subsidiaries or banking accounts in the DPRK (North Korea)" if there are reasonable grounds to believe that such financial services are associated with Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The resolution also added three North Korean individuals and two entities to the U.N. sanctions blacklist as they are suspected to be involved in the WMD program.
Shortly after the vote on the new resolution, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that "taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard." It is the fourth U.N. resolution against the communist nation.
Hours before the UNSC's vote, North Korea claimed that the U.S. is "set to light a fuse for nuclear war," citing the U.S.-led move in the council.
North Korea will "exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country," the communist nation's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Rice said, "North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocation."
Meanwhile, South Korea, a non-permanent member of the 15-seat council, welcomed the latest resolution against North Korea, saying it strongly condemns the nuclear test and further enhances the scope and intensity of sanctions on Pyongyang.
The South Korean government urged North Korea to heed "the shared concerns and united demands of the international community, follow the path of abandoning its nuclear and missile development and cease all provocations, and work together towards shared development as a responsible member of the international community," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.
As a follow-up to the UNSC's resolution, South Korea and the United States have prepared punitive measures of their own.
South Korea's finance ministry said on March 10 the country imposed additional sanctions against North Korea following the UNSC's toughened regulations to punish the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, South Korea put three additional North Korean officials and two entities on the blacklist, including officials from a North-based trade firm and a banker.
South Korean citizens and companies making financial transactions with people and firms listed on the list must win prior approval from the Bank of Korea, the country's central bank.
The move came after the UNSC unanimously adopted a resolution on March 7, which called for the international community to toughen sanctions on North Korea and blacklisted 19 North-based firms and 12 figures.
In Washington, the Treasury Department blacklisted the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank, on March 11.
The treasury department said in a statement that the trade bank "facilitated millions of dollars in transactions, which benefited the socialist country's premier arms dealer (North) Korea Mining Development Corp."
The State Department also imposed a travel ban on three top North Korean officials -- O Kuk-ryol, Pak To-chun, and Ju Kyu-chang -- who are apparently involved in its development of WMDs.
The resolution is said to be a product of more than three weeks of haggling between the U.S. and China.
U.N. diplomats describe it as the art of U.N. diplomacy. "These are the strongest and most comprehensive sanctions on North Korea," Kim Sook, South Korea's ambassador to the U.N., told reporters, putting the level of sanctions on par with those on Iran. "China played a positive role in adopting the toughened resolution," he added.
Kim did not elaborate, but his comments indicate that China, a permanent member of the council and long-time patron of North Korea, made some concessions.
On the financial front, the resolution places more restrictions on North Korea's transactions of funds for weapons development, either through banks abroad or by suitcases full of cash.
It "calls on states to exercise enhanced vigilance over North Korean diplomats to prevent them from contributing to North Korea's nuclear or ballistic missile programs, engaging in other activities prohibited by Security Council resolutions or evading sanctions."
It also bans the transfer of specific items to North Korea, including certain kinds of jewelry and precious stones, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars.
"Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard," Rice said. "They increase North Korea's isolation and raise the cost to North Korea's leaders for defying the international community."
China's foreign ministry said it welcomes the U.N.'s "necessary and moderate" response to North Korea's latest nuclear test.
It's noteworthy that China views the level of sanctions as "moderate," while the U.S. and South Korea call it strong.
Angered by the U.N. resolution, North Korea slammed the new sanctions and continued ramping up war rhetoric on March 8. An unidentified spokesman for the North's foreign ministry denounced the UNSC's fresh sanctions to punish the North for its third nuclear test, calling them "clear proof" that the U.N. is abused by the United States that aims to bring down the Pyongyang regime "by disarming and suffocating it economically."
"The DPRK vehemently denounces and totally rejects the resolution on sanctions against the DPRK, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward it," the spokesman said in the statement published by the KCNA.
North Korea also lashed out at the annual joint military exercises of South Korea and the U.S., which began on March 11.
The Key Resolve exercises, scheduled to last through March 21, involve more than 3,000 U.S. participants along with 10,000 of their South Korean counterparts to "hone the skills necessary to defend South Korea," said the Pentagon.
<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>