Korea-US-NK sanctions

SEJONG, March 20 (Yonhap) -- Senior officials of South Korea and the United States held talks on Wednesday to discuss ways to beef up sanctions against North Korea amid heightened tensions following the communist country's recent nuclear test, the finance ministry said.

The talks were held in Seoul between Deputy Finance Minister Choi Jong-ku and David Cohen, the U.S. under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, according to the ministry.

The meeting comes days after the U.S. imposed its own sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, Pyongyang's primary foreign exchange bank, and four officials responsible for the country's ballistic missile program.

Earlier this month, the U.N. also imposed sanctions that tightened restrictions on North Korea's financial dealings.

During the meeting, Cohen explained what actions the U.S. has taken against the North and Iran. Choi explained his side's efforts following the recent U.N. sanctions, informed officials said.

"Both exchanged opinions on areas where they can closely cooperate," an official said on condition of anonymity. He stopped short of elaborating.

Observers said that Cohen might have called for South Korea to join the U.S.-led sanctions, in particular, on the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, Pyongyang's primary foreign exchange bank.

Cohen earlier asked for cooperation from Tokyo with regard to the bank when he visited Japan on Tuesday.

Choi reportedly voiced support for the request on a principle basis.

Some, however, cautiously expressed skepticism, saying that it would be difficult for South Korea to join the U.S. sanctions at a time when its government has already taken all steps led by the U.N. in imposing sanctions on Pyongyang.

"From a diplomatic and practical point of view, it would not be easy to take additional actions which are led by a single country. It is unlike following global efforts through such organizations as the U.N.," a government source said.

Cohen's visit to Seoul is part of his tour of three Asian countries including Japan and China, a move aimed at drawing support for the United States' toughened sanctions against the North.

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