The U.N. Security Council yesterday released its much-anticipated list of North Korean firms and individuals to be sanctioned for their role in aiding the nation's nuclear and missile activities, the Wall Street Journal reported (see GSN, July 16).
The new blacklist covers five people and five companies.
"We are pleased with the new international sanctions agreed upon today in response to North Korea's nuclear tests and recent missile activity," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "These new designations ... will serve to constrain North Korea from engaging in transactions or activities that could fund its WMD or proliferation activities."
The body has instructed member nations to freeze any assets held in their banks by the individuals and firms on the list. U.N. states are also prohibited from conducting business with the North Korean companies or allowing entry by the designated individuals.
The new list is an addendum to a round of sanctions the Security Council approved last month in response to Pyongyang's May nuclear test, the nation's second. The sanctions are aimed at cutting off the flow of money to the Stalinist regime's nuclear and missile programs and pressuring it to return to disarmament talks.
The United States had hoped to name 15 companies to the list, but China -- which has been reluctant to punish the North for its controversial weapons program -- led negotiations that brought the number down to five. Washington has no problem with the final list, according to a U.S. official. U.S. and British sources said they do not believe China is in business with any of the firms it helped spare from penalties.
The firms include Namchongang Trading Corp. and Hong Kong Electronics, which are already under U.S. sanctions (see GSN, July 1). Namchongang is believed to have helped build a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria, which was bombed by Israel in 2007 (see GSN , June 18). Hong Kong Electronics, meanwhile, is thought to have contributed to Iran's controversial nuclear program (Lauria/Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 17).
The other entities on the list are the Korea Hyoskin Trading Corp., which Washington believes is involved in WMD development; the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, the agency that oversees Pyongyang's nuclear program; and the Korean Tangun Trading Corp., which the U.S. State Department said is in charge of acquisition of technology and material for WMD and other weapons programs.
The people on the list are Namchongang chief Yun Ho Jin; Ri Je Son, director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy; Hwang Sok Hwa, another high-level official in that agency; Ri Hong Sop, former director of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, where the government has produced weapon-grade plutonium; and Han Yu Ro, who heads the Ryongasksan General Trading Corp., which was not included among the targeted companies, but is believed to be involved in ballistic missile activities (U.S. State Department release, July 16).
"The individuals are closely involved and responsible for these programs; they are very senior," said Japanese U.N. Ambassador Yukio Takasu. "We have full confidence this will make a major impact."
University of Southern California international relations professor David Kang told the New York Times, though, that “this is probably not enough for a major North Korea response. “It will hurt them in any attempt to sell weapons, so as a restraint it might be good. But in terms of getting them to change their behavior, I don’t believe that is going to happen" (Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 16).
On top of the 10 firms and people singled out for sanctions, the Security Council forbade North Korea from importing two "dual-use" goods -- a kind of graphite used in electrical discharge machining and a type of super-strong synthetic fiber, filament, and tape (State Department release).
The United States today said it was "not too late" for North Korea to return to the six-party denuclearization talks, Agence France-Presse reported. Pyongyang abandoned the years-old diplomatic effort, under which it had made some moves toward shutting down its nuclear sector, after being criticized for its April rocket launch.
"We think it's important to send a collective message to North Korea that it's not too late and that we still wish them to return to the six-party talks and to responsible negotiations," said Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, July 17).
Another top U.S. official on Wednesday endorsed the widespread belief that North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests and bellicose rhetoric is can be attributed to a looming change at the top of its government, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
"It may well be that a number of the activities of the North in escalating a kind of aggressive behavior in recent months is as much [for] domestic consumption as it is for international activities," said Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Nacht told lawmakers during a hearing (see GSN, July 16).
"North Korea's going through some sort of succession process currently," Nacht said, referring to leader Kim Jong Il's failing health and rumors that he has named his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as his heir.
"We don't know if it's going to take three months or three years," Nacht added. "By accounts, the leader is very ill. The son who he's anointed is of uncertain stature -- 26 years old" (Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency, July 17).
A South Korean think tank today said the North is in a worse condition than it has been in since Kim Jong Il took power in 1994, AFP reported.
The reclusive nation, which has experienced isolation and food shortages for decades, now also faces an economic crisis and a declining national figurehead, according to the Seoul-based Korea Development Institute.
"With all these factors combined," the institute said in a new report, "the current difficulties confronting North Korea can be compared to the conditions back in 1994, when [previous leader] Kim Il Sung died and a nuclear crisis was sparked."
Pyongyang's desperation will probably make persuading it to abandon its nuclear program harder, the institute contended,
"In the past, the focus was on nuclear disarmament but now it has shifted to a head-on confrontation, with the North demanding it be recognized as a nuclear power and the other five countries (in the six-party talks) unwilling to tolerate the request," the report says. "It will be much more difficult to reach a breakthrough" than it was 15 years ago (Agence France-Presse II/Yahoo!News, July 17).