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(News Focus) China-NK sanctions

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- China's decision to approve a new U.N. Security Council resolution expanding sanctions against North Korea is a welcome step, but the latest sanctions will bring the North to heel only if China takes a sincere approach to implementing them, analysts said Friday.

Nearly a month after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, the U.N.'s 15-member council passed the resolution, adding three North Korean personnel and two entities to a sanctions list.

The new measures included tightening financial restrictions on North Korea and a compulsory inspection of North Korean ships suspected of banned cargo in violation of previous U.N. resolutions. It also called for states to exercise an "enhanced vigilance" regarding North Korean diplomats and specified banned luxury items such as "jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars" for the first time.

Since the North's first nuclear test in 2006, Pyongyang has been hit by heavy U.N. sanctions, but it was believed that the isolated regime bypassed the sanctions through trade with China, its last-remaining ally. Trade with China accounts for about 70 percent of the North's trade.

"Although China delivered its message of joining U.N. sanctions against North Korea to the international community, it is unlikely to take a maximum approach to implementing the sanctions," said Moon Heung-ho, a professor of Chinese studies at Hanyang University in Seoul.

"There is a high possibility that China might enforce 20-30 percent of the sanctions," Moon said.

According to data by the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S., North Korea's total exports stood at US$4.7 billion in 2011, of which 67.2 percent went to China. Imports from China accounted for 61.6 percent of the North's total imports, worth $4 billion.

Foreign banks and other financial institutions dealing with North Korea's trading firms are centered in China, making it difficult for South Korea and the U.S. to halt financial transactions for North Korean firms suspected of involvement with the sale of illicit goods.

In response to the tougher U.N. sanctions and ongoing Seoul-Washington joint military drills, North Korea's military has threatened to scrap the Korean War cease-fire and turn Seoul and Washington into a "sea of fire."

The North's increasingly bellicose rhetoric heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula with Seoul's military officials warning that they would immediately strike back at Pyongyang if provoked.

Military officials said North Korea will begin a nationwide military drill next week amid signs of another test-launch of missiles.

Given the North's long-established pattern of threats, provocations and then dialogues, some analyst expect Pyongyang to seek to resume talks with Seoul or Washington, but after another round of provocations.

"After driving the situation to the brink, it is possible for North Korea to move to resume a dialogue with the U.S., potentially within one or two months," said Yun Duk-min, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

The North's Feb. 12 nuclear test complicated South Korean President Park Geun-hye's policy of pursuing a "trust-building process" with the North that calls for engagement with Pyongyang while not tolerating a nuclear North Korea.

Park has urged North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions, saying nuclear weapons will bring Pyongyang nothing but deeper isolation and greater suffering.

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