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Friday 21 July 2017

N Korea hit with new US arms sanctions

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

America announced new sanctions against North Korea yesterday to hit the state's nuclear weapons programme and destabilise its regime.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said the measures would discourage North Korean aggression, but China accused America of aggravating "regional tensions".

Relations have been especially tense since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors. Suspicion is high ahead of joint US-South Korean naval exercises planned for next week.

Mrs Clinton said the new sanctions would limit the purchase and sale of arms and freeze the assets of Pyongyang's isolated leadership, which is accused of allowing millions of the country's people to starve.

Mrs Clinton said the measures were designed to stop them selling weapons technology in return for hard currency, which is then used to develop more weapons of mass destruction.

"(The sanctions will) increase our ability to prevent North Korea's proliferation, to halt their illicit activities that help fund their weapons programmes and to discourage further provocative actions," Mrs Clinton said.

During an unusual visit to the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas, the secretary of state said the North could have a peace treaty, normal relations with the US and an end to sanctions if it ended its belligerence and took irreversible steps to stop trying to build atomic weapons.

Isolation

Mrs Clinton was in South Korea with Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, to underline Washington's commitment to preserving stability in the region. She said while the South had made "extraordinary progress" since the Korean War, the North had not only "stagnated in isolation", but its people had "suffered for many years".

An international inquiry has found the Cheonan warship was destroyed by a torpedo from a North Korean submarine.

A joint US-South Korean statement released yesterday referred to the inquiry, saying any "irresponsible behaviour" from North Korea would "be met with serious consequences".

But China, North Korea's only ally in the region, expressed concern over US-South Korean naval exercises off the Korean Peninsula beginning Sunday.

The Pentagon reportedly tried to contact military officials in North Korea to warn them of the exercises but phone calls went unanswered. Instead, US officers have used loudhailers to shout across the border. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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