By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 2009
UNITED NATIONS, July 16 -- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday banned travel and froze assets of 10 North Korean individuals and businesses linked to the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, marking the first time the United Nations has directly penalized members of the nation's military and business elite.
The council's action, backed by China and Russia, comes in response to a series of North Korean missile tests and its second detonation of a nuclear device. The sanctions also marked an escalation in the 15-nation council's efforts to constrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Those targeted include Ri Je Son and Hwang Sok Hwa, the directors of North Korea's General Bureau of Atomic Energy, which oversees the country's nuclear program. The council also imposed sanctions on Ri Hong Sop, the former director of the country's premier nuclear facility at the Yongybyon Nuclear Research Center.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the new measures "will serve to constrain North Korea from engaging in transactions or activities that could fund its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] or proliferation activities."
But experts on North Korea's nuclear and missile trade said the government has proven adept at evading international sanctions. David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector, said, "To stop the illicit trade finally, you will have to sit down with North Koreans and start cutting deals to get them to stop."
The Obama administration, which came into office hoping to restart multiparty talks with North Korea, has found itself pursuing a tougher line.
Last month, it pushed adoption of a Security Council resolution that imposed a range of diplomatic, military and financial sanctions on Pyongyang.
A senior State Department official said the United States is still open to pursue diplomatic talks with North Korea, "but they need to understand the strong intention and will of all the parties that we're not going to repeat the process last time of simply engaging in talks that don't lead to irreversible steps," the official said.
The Obama administration has sought to revive the efforts started and later abandoned by President George W. Bush to curtail North Korea's weapons trade, which U.S. officials said uses front companies and cash couriers to evade international oversight. The architect of the Bush administration's sanctions strategy, Stuart Levey, who is Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, has been tapped to lead the current effort.
The new agreement freezes assets of four companies -- including the Pyongyang-based Namchongang Trading Corp. and Hong Kong Electronics, which is registered in Kish Island, Iran -- that have already been targeted by the United States for their alleged role in North Korea's nuclear and missile trade. The agreement also targets Yun Ho Jin, Namchongang's director
The council's action also was aimed at the Korean Tangun Trading Corp., the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp. and Han Yu Ro, the director of Korea Ryongaksan General Trading Corp.