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Seoul’s Sanction on NK Almost Concluded

Posted October. 25, 2006 07:06,   


The government is pondering on imposing sanctions on North Korea, as it is obliged to report to the Sanctions Committee of the U.N. Security Council the steps it has taken to implement the provisions adopted by the committee until the middle of next month.

Currently, there are disagreements between governmental ministries on the level of sanctions to be imposed which are closely related to the operation of the Gaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Geumgang tours and participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation-

It seems that Seoul has provisionally concluded its sanctioning measures to cut government subsidies for tours to Mount Geumgang and to delay further sales of land in the Gaesong Industrial Complex.

Other options that have been on the list, such as abolishing or reducing the tour programs to Mount Geumgang or paying tour benefits in kind instead of cash, were not chosen.

However, critics argue that since government subsidies for the tour programs were merely about five billion won, the level of sanctions is much lower than the demands of Washington, which has been strongly suspicious about the usage of cash that flows into North Korea.

Washington has recently urged Seoul to quit or suspend the operation of the tour project, using tough rhetoric, for example, referring to the project as “one devised to provide authorities in Pyongyang with money.” Many also claim that the sanction on the industrial complex would also be meaningless since there are now only a few companies that wish to buy land in Gaesong after risks have been intensified due to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

There are officials in the government including those in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who contend that the sanctioning measures are too soft. A governmental official said on October 24, “In order to enhance our leverage in negotiations against North Korea, we should adopt a strategy to accord the level of our sanctions with other countries in the international society.”

Ship Searches and PSI-

In response to the resolution of the U.N. Security Council on sanctions to North Korea which stipulates freight searching, Seoul has insisted on the stance that as the inter-Korean maritime agreement signed in August last year is sufficiently effective, there is no need for additional measures. The government claims that the agreement is in accord with the Security Council’s resolution in that it enables the inspection of North Korean vessels that are under suspicion of carrying weapons or fleeing after committing illegality.

Song Min-soon, the president’s chief security adviser, mentioned on October 18, “South Korea and China’s participation (in the PSI) has different meanings from the same action of other countries. Reflecting this sensitivity, we will take the inter-Korean maritime agreement and measures of PSI together into consideration.”

Critics, however, question the practical effect of this inter-Korean maritime agreement. None of the more than 140 North Korean vessels that passed South Korean territorial waters have been inspected since the agreement was signed, including four which passed by the Jeju Strait after October 9 when Pyongyang executed its nuclear test. They also point out that the agreement is practically inapplicable since there are no ships at all that head to a third country via a South Korean port. Actually, North Korean freighters pass through international waters when they sail to a third country.

According to their analysis, the inter-Korean maritime agreement has limited effect in that it allows inspection of vessels only when they are carrying weapons, while the Security Council’s resolution enables inspection of cargo when there are “related materials” to weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, some in the government claim that it should consider taking a bigger part in the PSI action. They explain that even if Seoul joins the PSI measures, chances of physical collision with North Korea are very low because it is up to each country’s decision whether to inspect or capture a certain vessel or to participate in a joint military drill. In addition, they note that thanks to technological developments, it is now able to judge from a 30~40km distance if a ship or vehicle is transporting nuclear substances.