(Yonhap Interview) Bruce Bechtol

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 7 (Yonhap) -- The effectiveness of new U.N. sanctions on North Korea, the toughest yet, depends largely on the U.S. government's resolve and skills to implement them, especially through the Treasury Department, a renowned American pundit on Korea said Thursday.

Most of the previous U.N. Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang have had no real teeth, said Bruce Bechtol, associate professor of political science at Angelo State University in Texas. He has long studied North Korea issues, authoring several books on the communist nation including the one titled, "Defiant Failed State."

"If this resolution is to truly work, the United States must follow up with detailed action by the Treasury Department," he said in an email interview.

Earlier in the day, the U.N. council voted for Resolution 2094 that toughens and expands financial restrictions on Pyongyang in a bid to prevent it from earning hard currency. The resolution, adopted in response to North Korea's Feb. 12 nuclear test, also calls for the inspection of North Korea's maritime and air cargo believed to be used for the transfer of weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

As far as the implementation of the U.N. sanctions is concerned, Bechtol stressed, the Treasury holds the key as it did in 2005.

At that time, the department froze US$24 million in North Korea's assets at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA), a measure widely said to have really hurt the country's leadership.

The work of truly ensuring that banks overseas do not launder North Korean money can only effectively be done by Treasury Department experts working with international equivalent agencies and foreign banks in places like Macau, Singapore, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Mongolia, he said.

Such actions will "set a chain reaction into effect that means other nations will follow suit," according to Bechtol.

He pointed out Pyongyang is very good at laundering their money, constantly changing its set of front companies, individuals and banks to do so.

Tracing North Korea's illicit financial transactions is a difficult and resource-intensive undertaking, he said.

He agreed China's cooperation is important but said Beijing is unlikely to provide help voluntarily.

"China is likely to step in only if it means money out of their pockets," he said. "Thus, if banks in China are targeted, and the U.S. and other countries threaten to pull their funds out and take them elsewhere if business with the North Koreans continues to be done, this will force the Chinese to take action," he said.

Regarding North Korea's military threats including a nuclear attack and a second Korean War, Bechtol said the unpredictable country has often turned rhetoric into provocations.

He disapproved of a call for the Obama administration to reset its North Korea policy.

"I think the Obama administration over the past four years has maintained a prudent, pragmatic policy toward North Korea in close collaboration with their ally, the Republic of Korea," he said.

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