UN panel agrees to blacklist 3 North Korean firms

Friday, April 24, 2009
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS —  Three major North Korean companies were targeted for new U.N. sanctions Friday in response to the communist nation's April 5 rocket launch.

The decision by the U.N. Security Council's sanctions committee for North Korea will require nations that have dealings with the companies to freeze their assets.

"This update includes some of the latest technologies relevant to ballistic missile programs. The committee has also agreed to designate three entities to be subject to the measures, namely an asset freeze," said Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin.

The companies are Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. and Korea Ryongbong General Corp., both of which were previously sanctioned for suspected involvement in ballistic missile transactions, and Tanchon Commercial Bank, which managed the transaction funds.

That is likely to draw new protests from North Korea, which last week expelled U.N. nuclear monitors, vowed to restart its atomic program and quit nuclear disarmament negotiations to protest the council's condemnation of its rocket launch.

The North calls the rebuke unfair because the April 5 rocket was carrying a satellite, but the U.S., Japan and other nations believe it was a cover to test technology for long-range military missiles.

The Security Council adopted a resolution in 2006 barring North Korea from working on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

While the committee did not name other companies, the 2006 resolution allows for subsidiaries of the three companies to be targeted. Those include at least eight subsidiaries that the U.S. had wanted to be explicitly named in the asset freeze, diplomats said.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations said it welcomed the committee's action and called it "a serious and credible response" to the missile launch. Both the U.S. and Japan had specified the three companies.

"This is extremely important to implement effectively," said Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu. "And I hope that this unity of the council could send, I hope, a good signal to the rest of the world."

But three other major North Korean companies Japan wanted punished were passed over by the sanctions committee, which is made up of all 15 nations on the Security Council. The sanctions committee actions are final and do not require additional approval.

The U.S., Japan, South Korea and other nations seeking a stern response to North Korea ran into opposition from China and Russia, which as two of the council's five permanent members have the power to veto actions.

British Ambassador John Sawers, however, called the measures "a major step forward" because they target the North's primary arms dealer, a major player in its trade in military goods and equipment and the main financial agent for sales of conventional arms and ballistic missiles.

During a visit to South Korea, Russia's foreign minister on Friday repeated his country's opposition to sanctioning North Korea for its rocket launch and called for efforts to revive stalled international talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear arms programs.

"Sanctions are not constructive," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference with his South Korean counterpart, Yu Myung-hwan.

Lavrov flew to Seoul failing during a two-day trip to Pyongyang to persuade North Korean officials to end their boycott of the nuclear negotiations, which have been deadlocked since December.

He called on the countries involved in the talks _ the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea _ to create conditions necessary for resumption of the talks. The nations should "honor their obligations," Lavrov said.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry said after talks between Lavrov and his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui Chun, that "the Russian side ... paid attention to the (North's) stand that there is no need to hold the six-party talks any longer," the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Before leaving Pyongyang, Lavrov delivered a letter from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, KCNA said, without elaborating on the letter's contents. Lavrov said he did not meet with Kim.

North Korea's relations with Moscow are not as close as they were during the Soviet era but remain cordial. Moscow usually avoids openly criticizing the North.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test explosion in the fall of 2006, but agreed a few months later during the six-nation talks to disable its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of fuel oil in aid and other concessions.

Last June, North Korea blew up a cooling tower at the plant in a dramatic display of its commitment to denuclearization. But disablement work stopped a month later as North Korea wrangled with Washington over how to verify its past nuclear activities.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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