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Obama Renews Sanctions Targeting North Korea

U.S. President Obama has renewed for an additional year sanctions targeting North Korea, RIA Novosti reported on Friday (see GSN, June 23).

Former President Bush first ordered the sanctions in 2008 under the National Emergencies Act. The Obama White House has maintained those penalties and even increased them, adding a new prohibition in April on the import of all North Korean products.

"The existence and the risk of proliferation of weapon-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula, and the actions and policies of the government of North Korea that destabilize the Korean Peninsula and imperil U.S. armed forces, allies, and trading partners in the region, continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States," Obama said in a notice to Congress explaining his reasons for renewing the sanctions.

North Korea has flouted U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit it from carrying out ballistic missile or nuclear weapons tests (RIA Novosti, June 24).

Meanwhile, the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Pyongyang's commitment to lasting nuclear disarmament matters more than an apology to the South for recent attacks, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Seoul blames North Korea for the March 2010 sinking of the warship Cheonan and the November artillery assault on Yeonpyeong Island. The two attacks left 50 South Koreans dead. North Korea has denied all responsibility in the first incident and accuses the South for provoking it in the second.

"With regard to ways to resume any dialogue with North Korea, including inter-Korean talks or six-party negotiations, the most important condition is whether the North will show a sincere attitude on resolving the nuclear issue," ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said to journalists.

Cho would not say if Seoul was no longer demanding an admission of guilt as a precondition for its return to the aid-for-denuclearization negotiations that also involve China, Japan, North Korea, Russia and the United States. Rather, Cho said the 2010 attacks were issues that "can't be left unsaid."

"Our people won't accept if we overlook the issues without mentioning anything," the spokesman said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan is currently in Washington for talks with Obama officials on ways to achieve a breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear impasse (Yonhap News Agency, June 23).

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