Administration Seeks Stronger North Korea Sactions Enforcement

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jun 26, 2009 4:21pm

ABC News' Yunji de Nies reports: Senior administration officials say they are working to limit threats posed by North Korea, by focusing on better enforcement of existing sanctions, and close scrutiny of all financial transactions between the private sector and Pyongyang. “What we're trying to do is work with our partners around the world to prevent North Korea from misusing the international financial system to support its nuclear missile proliferation activities and its other criminal and illicit conduct it engages in,” a senior administration official said. Speaking with reporters on background, the officials, who asked not to be named, said North Korea’s recent “shocking defiance of the international community” has “galvanized very strong support.” The officials said in the coming days Ambassador Phil Goldberg will lead an interagency team, which will organize various federal agencies, including the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and the National Security Council, to deal directly with the threats raised by North Korea.  Goldberg will be focused strictly on sanctions implementation.  The officials said the ambassador’s team would follow the model of a similar group organized by then-Vice President Gore, headed by Leon Fuerth that dealt with sanctions on Serbia during the Balkan wars. Goldberg’s team will also interact on an international level, starting with China, who has also created a similar team of its own. One official said that key regional players, including Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, are all in agreement that existing sanctions must be more effectively implemented. “There's a broad consensus about the need to have a focus and engaged effort to see that these sanctions are implemented, to make sure that each of the elements are implemented, and that we're sharing information with each other,” the official said. Officials said that the efforts would not be limited to government, but that the private sector must play a key role. “There's a really important private sector component, which is that the private sector wants to protect itself from this illicit financial activity, they have a stake in the integrity of the system, and they have a stake in their own reputations,” the official said. The officials would not comment on the possibility of another nuclear test by North Korea, saying only, “they have publicly threatened to do things, and so we're watching it very carefully.” One official said that after North Korea’s recent missile launches and nuclear test, there is a strong sense that the Chinese government is deeply concerned. “The sentiment that was expressed to me there was that a nuclear North Korea is at least as threatening and maybe more threatening to us than it is to you,” the official said. “I think there is a real recognition that the consequences of North Korea going nuclear is not just a question of whether they're going to use a nuclear weapon against any one of us, but what it means for the whole security of the region.  And the Chinese are profoundly aware of that.  They know that an operational nuclear capability in North Korea changes the game in Northeast Asia in ways that they don't want to see.” The officials said that the administration still believes that convincing North Korea to move away from pursuing nuclear weapons is “a realistic goal.”  They said that recognizing Pyongyang as a nuclear power is simply “off the table.”

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