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Obama reinforces sanctions on N.K. for nukes, missiles

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― U.S. President Barack Obama has reinforced trade restrictions against North Korea to buttress a United Nations arms embargo on the North for its nuclear and missile tests, the White House said Monday.

Obama has extended trade restrictions against North Korea every year since 2009 under Executive Order 13466 issued by former President George W. Bush upon his termination of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea. The restrictions are to expire on June 25 unless otherwise stated by the president.

Bush terminated the act in June 2008 to facilitate a resumption of the stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.

Executive Orders 13382 and 13466 issued by Bush in 2006 and 2008, respectively, “freezes the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, and it prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with them, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems.”

In a new Executive Order, Obama prohibited “the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services or technology from North Korea,” calling on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the president by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order.”

All U.S. government agencies were also ordered “to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.”

The extended sanctions come as the six-party talks are deadlocked over heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s torpedoing of a South Korean warship and shelling of a border island killed a total of 50 people last year.

North Korea has yet to take actions to address South Koreans’ grievances over the sinking of the warship Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, although South Korea and the U.S. want the North to do that before moving on to another round of the denuclearization-for-aid talks.

Seoul has proposed that Pyongyang come out for inter-Korean nuclear dialogue to foster the atmosphere for an early resumption of the nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia amid reports the North may respond sooner or later.

In a conciliatory mood, Seoul and Washington have recently discussed possible food aid to North Korea, which is suffering from severe food shortages due to flooding and a severe winter.

A senior Obama administration official said, asking for anonymity, that Obama’s Executive Order “neither strengthens nor weakens our previous restrictions on imports of North Korean products; it rationalizes the process.”

“This Executive Order, which the president signed today (April 18), takes additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008 and expanded in Executive Order 13551 of August 30, 2010,” the official said.

Under Executive Order 13551, Obama blacklisted several more North Korean entities and North Korean citizens, including Office 39 of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, which is believed to manage slush funds for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, for their involvement in weapons of mass destruction and other activities banned by U.N. resolutions.

Executive Order 13551, issued in retaliation to the Cheonan’s sinking, effectively put more than 20 North Korean entities and individuals under trade restrictions with the U.S., in line with U.N. resolutions adopted after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in past years designed to slap financial sanctions, an overall arms embargo and sea, air and land cargo inspections on North Korea.

“Specifically, this new Executive Order prohibits the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services or technology from North Korea except those that are explicitly licensed,” the official said. “Among other things, the new Executive Order will ensure implementation of the import restrictions contained in United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1718 and 1874. In addition, the new Executive Order complements statutory import restrictions provided for in the Arms Export Control Act.”

Bush terminated the Trading with the Enemy Act for North Korea on June 26, 2008, as Pyongyang presented a detailed list of its nuclear activities, blew up a cooling tower connected to its Yongbyon nuclear facility and pledged to return to stalled six-party nuclear talks.

Bush also notified Congress of his intention to remove North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror, a move long sought by the North in order to open access to financial assistance from the international community to prop up its isolated, impoverished economy.

Bush said at the time the two actions “will have little impact on North Korea’s financial and diplomatic isolation,” adding, “North Korea will remain one of the most heavily sanctioned nations in the world.”

North Korea was first put on the terrorism list soon after it downed a South Korean airplane over Burma in 1987, killing all 115 passengers. It was delisted in October 2008, which paved the way for a fresh round of multilateral nuclear talks that were deadlocked for nearly a year.
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