nuclear envoy-US Treasury official

SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Treasury sanctions chief David Cohen held talks with senior South Korean officials on Wednesday on ways to beef up punitive sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test and exhorted the North to tread a "better path."

Cohen, the U.S. under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, flew to Seoul from Tokyo where he discussed the same topic with Japanese officials. He is set to visit China later Wednesday.

Cohen separately met with Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's chief nuclear envoy, and South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun earlier in the day.

"(South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have agreed on) the approach of applying pressure on North Korea to disrupt their nuclear program and to make certain that the North Koreans understand that there is a better path available as being an essential way to proceed," Cohen said in his opening remarks ahead of talks with Kim.

Cohen's visit came just 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.

The U.S. sanctions are in addition to the U.N. sanctions announced earlier this month that tightened restrictions on North Korea's financial dealings, notably its suspected "bulk cash" transfers.

Kim said he hope the latest U.N. sanctions "send a strong signal to Pyongyang, as an international collective kind of signal to North Korea, not to do that kind of thing again."

In a statement released later Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department said that Cohen and South Korean officials "discussed the importance of harmonizing international efforts through robust implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2094 to prevent the DPRK (North Korea) from pursuing proliferation-related activities."

The North's Foreign Trade Bank "has facilitated millions of dollars in transactions that have benefited Korea Mining Development Corporation (KOMID), North Korea's premier arms dealer and its financial arm, Tanchon Commercial Bank (TCB), both of which have been designated at the U.N.," the statement said.

In response to the U.N. sanctions, North Korea has ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric, warning almost daily that the Korean Peninsula is on the verge of a nuclear war.

The U.S. flew training missions of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea on Tuesday in a show of force against the North.

North Korea responded with another warning that it will take military action should the U.S. fly the B-52 bombers over the Korean Peninsula again.

Shortly before Cohen and Lim began talks, computer networks of several major broadcasters and banks in South Korea were paralyzed, prompting police to investigate into a concerted cyber attack.

Seoul's military upgraded its cyber alert readiness by one notch.

Last week, North Korea blamed South Korea and the U.S. for launching a cyber attack on the North. The communist country was suspected of masterminding two major cyber attacks in 2009 and 2011 on South Korea's major government agencies and financial firms.

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