Ban, Hu to discuss North Korea

TESTS LOOM LARGE: The meeting comes as the US attempts to enforce sanctions the UN Security Council placed on Pyongyang after its jarring atomic blast on Oct. 9


Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 5

South Korea's foreign minister -- the next UN secretary-general -- arrived in China yesterday as Seoul and Beijing ponder how to sanction North Korea over its first-ever nuclear test.

Ban Ki-moon was scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) during his two-day trip.

The visit is part of Ban's tour of the five permanent member countries of the UN Security Council following his election earlier this month as the next UN chief, but his discussion in Beijing will also cover the North Korean nuclear issue, his ministry said.

Ban also plans to visit Russia and France next week.

His trip to Beijing comes a week after Tang, in his capacity as a Chinese presidential envoy, met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang for talks on the nuclear issue.

China announced this week that the North's leader told the Chinese envoy that he does not have a plan to carry out a second nuclear test, but will take further actions if necessary.

The US has been trying to muster international pressure against Pyongyang, seeking to enforce the UN Security Council resolution that calls for sanctions to punish the North for its Oct. 9 nuclear test.

The US State Department said on Thursday it was studying the imposition of additional sanctions against North Korea.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said on Wednesday that the Washington "is now obligated by law to adopt additional sanctions on North Korea under national legislation."

She mentioned the so-called Glenn Amendment, which bans US assistance to non-nuclear weapon states found to have exploded a nuclear device. US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said US "lawyers and the proliferation experts are taking a look at what the applicable sanctions might be, what is the possible universe."

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow yesterday stepped up pressure on Seoul to take stronger steps against the North to show that its "behavior is unacceptable."

"We have asked the [South Korean] government to join the international community in preventing proliferation of weapons from [North Korea], and I understand the government is considering the question of closer involvement in our proliferation security initiative," Vershbow told a breakfast meeting.

"I expect that the [South Korean] government ... will take appropriate steps," he said.

South Korea said on Thursday it would ban some Northern officials from traveling to South Korea, in line with a UN resolution passed in response to the North's nuclear test.

The travel ban marks its first real effort by Seoul to enforce the UN sanctions resolution that also seeks to ban the North's weapons trade.

The resolution calls for all member countries to state how they plan to implement sanctions on the North within 30 days of its Oct. 14 adoption. It also mandates intercepting ships believed to be carrying suspect material.

Along with the travel ban, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Seoul will control transactions and remittances related to inter-Korean trade and investment with Northern officials, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.

It was unclear how tough the South will be in enforcing the new restrictions.

Seoul has hesitated in taking strong measures to support the sanctions, mindful of Pyongyang's massive armed forces poised at the border, its family and cultural ties with the North, and its wish to expand economic relations with its neighbor.

How to enforce the sanctions has also been an issue between the US and China, the North's last-remaining major ally.

Beijing voted for the UN resolution and says it will meet its obligations, but is concerned that excessive measures could worsen the situation.

The North's nuclear test continues to have repercussions across the border, where the head of South Korea's main intelligence agency has offered to resign, making him the third minister-level official to offer to submit his resignation since the North's test.

On Tuesday, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, in charge of reconciliation with North Korea, also offered his resignation, saying he wanted to take responsibility for the North's nuclear test because he was the main minister in charge of North Korean affairs. The country's defense minister offered to quit on Monday.

Roh plans to accept all those resignations, Yonhap news agency said.