- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The United States and China called Tuesday for tougher U.N. sanctions to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear missile test, as the secretive Stalinist state threatened to scrap the 1953 truce that halted the Korean War.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Li Baodong, China’s U.N. envoy, prepared a draft resolution targeting the illegal activities of North Korean diplomats, North Korea’s illicit banking relationships and its bulk transfers of cash. The sanctions also would impose new travel sanctions on North Korean officials.

The support of China, North Korea’s closest ally, is seen as key for passage of the resolution in the U.N. Security Council. A vote could be held at a council meeting Thursday, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on background after a closed-door meeting at the United Nations to discuss the resolution.

North Korea will be subject to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations,” Mrs. Rice said.

The draft resolution “builds upon, strengthens, and significantly expands the scope of the strong U.N. sanctions already in place,” she said.

In Washington, U.S. officials denounced North Korea for threatening to discard the cease-fire agreement that brought an end to the fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

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North Korea “will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate” the regime, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

In the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, a military spokesman said the government of Kim Jong-un will “completely nullify the Korean armistice” because of ongoing military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

“The war exercise being done by the United States and the puppet South Korea is a systematic act of destruction aimed at the Korean armistice,” the spokesman told the North Korean Central News Agency.

North and South Korea are still technically in a state of war, and the United States has 28,500 troops stationed in the South.

The spokesman also said North Korea will cut off a North Korea-U.S. military communications hotline at Panmunjom, a village on the border of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Richard Bush, an Asia specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, downplayed North Korea’s threat to cancel the truce.

“Threatening to end the armistice is one of Pyongyang’s hardy perennials, an action that conveys frustration that Washington is not willing to talk with it on anything close to North Korea’s terms,” said Mr. Bush, director of the think tank’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.

“There is a danger that Pyongyang may sometime resort to conventional military provocations, and Seoul, Washington and Beijing need to be prepared, but North Korea really doesn’t need to ‘cancel’ the armistice in order to mount limited attacks,” he said.

On the sanctions resolution, Mr. Bush noted the importance of China’s support for the measures because it has been lax in enforcing the existing sanctions against North Korea.

China has been reluctant to put too much pressure on the regime in Pyongyang out of concern that a destabilized North Korea would send a flood of refugees into China and set the stage for South Korean dominance on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has responded to past U.N. sanctions by conducting nuclear tests and launching long-range rockets. Its most recent nuclear test, on Feb. 12, was in response to U.N. sanctions after the launch of a long-range rocket by Pyongyang in December.

“There is quite a bit that could be done in better implementing the sanctions that exist,” Mr. Bush said.

China has had a loose interpretation of what some of them mean, and it could secure the confidence of the U.S., Japan and South Korea and put some pressure on North Korea just by doing what it should be doing.”

Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged China to demonstrate its support for the proposed U.N. sanctions.

“I hope that China will not do what it’s done in the past and agree to sanctions and then just erode those sanctions so the sanctions never really took hold,” Mr. Engel, who has visited North Korea twice, said at a committee hearing Tuesday.

“I hope that China will finally understand that the North Korean regime is a threat to stability in that region of the world and in many regions of the world because North Korea is a rogue state helping countries like Syria trying to obtain nuclear weapons and collaborating with Iran.”

Joseph DeTrani, former director of the National Counterproliferation Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told lawmakers that China has propped up the North Korean regime with economic aid.

China is key,” he said. “Without China, the North Korean economy just crumbles.”

Lawmakers also criticized U.S. administrations for failing to check the North Korean threat.

“We’ve had [nuclear] test after test. We’ve had broken promise after broken promise, and successive administrations — Republican and Democrat — have clung to an unrealistic hope that one day North Korea will suddenly negotiate away its nuclear program,” said Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and committee chairman.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a former committee chairwoman, said, “North Korea uses the same dangerous tactic time and time again.

“It dangles the idea that it is willing to denuclearize as a bargaining chip and then the Kims renege on this,” the Florida Republican added, referring to the Kim family dynasty that has led North Korea since 1948.

Lawmakers weighed options for targeted financial sanctions against Kim Jong-un’s regime, which is involved in a number of illicit activities, including the counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

It is this dependence on illicit activities that is the regime’s “Achilles’ heel,” Mr. Royce said.



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