SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea made its first concrete move Thursday to enforce U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear test, saying it will ban officials from the communist country who fall under a U.N. travel restriction and control financial transactions between the rivals.
Meanwhile, a South Korean Defense Ministry report underscored the lingering threat posed by the North, saying the regime is believed to have enough plutonium to make as many as seven nuclear bombs. The North is also working to make a small, lightweight nuclear warhead that can be carried by ballistic missile, according to the report released by an opposition lawmaker.
The U.N. resolution, passed in response to the North’s underground nuclear blast on Oct. 9, seeks to ban the country’s weapons trade and calls for North Korean ships to be searched for suspected illegal materials. The resolution asks all member countries to state how they plan to implement the sanctions within 30 days of its Oct. 14 adoption.
Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Seoul would ban some North Korean officials from traveling to the South and control transactions and remittances related to inter-Korean trade and investment with Pyongyang, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported.
It was unclear how tough the South will be in enforcing the restrictions. Seoul had been hesitant to take strong measures to support the sanctions, mindful of North Korea’s massive armed forces poised at the border, its family and cultural ties, and its wish to expand economic relations with its neighbor.
Also at issue was whether South Korea would expand its participation in a U.S.-led drive to interdict North Korean ships and aircraft suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or related material.
Today, South Korea’s foreign minister – the next U.N. secretary-general – was to visit China, 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 and other officials.
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