U.S., S. Korea discuss how to sanction Iran for suspected nuke weapons programs: State Dept.

August 26, 2010 11:23 am 

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (PNA/Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States held talks here Wednesday to discuss how to sanction Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programs under U.N. resolutions, the State Department said.

"A South Korean delegation did meet with Special Adviser Bob Einhorn at the Department of State, discussing issues related to Iran," Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said. "As for further details, I'd just refer you to the government of South Korea. I believe the agenda for today's meeting is focused on Iran."

Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control who oversees U.S. sanctions on North Korea and Iran, visited Seoul early this month and called for South Korea's cooperation in banning business ties with blacklisted Iranian entities.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo led the delegation to discuss to what extent Seoul will restrict business ties with Tehran, including the suspension or shutting down of Bank Mellat and two other Iranian entities operating in Seoul, blacklisted by the Treasury Department for their alleged involvement in the Iranian nuclear activities.

South Korean government agencies are reportedly at odds, as the Foreign Ministry is focusing more on the alliance with the U.S. while economy-related ministries are trying to minimize the economic impact on South Korean firms.

South Korea has kept a balanced position on Iran and economic considerations for the past decade, following the obligatory U.N. sanctions but refraining from voluntary harsh measures toward Iran.

Iran recently warned South Korea it will face consequences if Seoul joins the international community in imposing stricter sanctions.

South Korean firms, including LG, Hyundai, Samsung Electronics, Hanjin Heavy industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding, have signed billion-dollar contracts with Iran in recent years.

South Korea's trade with Iran reached US billion last year. Iran, the world's fourth biggest crude oil producer, supplied nearly nine percent of South Korea's oil last year.

South Korean firms are concerned that limits on business with Iran will greatly undermine their long-term opportunities there in the petrochemical, construction and plant export industries.

China, which has invested heavily in Iran despite international sanctions, has said it opposes new sanctions on Iran by the U.S. and its allies, calling for more dialogue on the issue of uranium, which Tehran insists is for power generation.

The Treasury Department last week warned foreign financial institutions that they will lose access to their U.S. counterparts unless they cut off ties with individuals and entities involved in Iranian nuclear programs.

The department announced early this month a new list of 21 Iranian companies and several Iranian officials that allegedly support terrorist groups and transfer weapons prohibited by the U.N. Resolution 1929, adopted in June to bolster sanctions for Iran's failure to abandon its uranium enrichment programs.

The European Union, Australia, Canada and Japan joined forces in recent weeks to issue new sanctions on Iran.

Einhorn and other U.S. officials will likely visit Beijing in early September to seek Chinese cooperation on new sanctions on North Korea and Iran, as China is seen as key to effective implementation of the sanctions on both countries.

The U.S. is also set to announce soon a new list of North Korean entities and individuals involved in trading weapons, luxury goods, counterfeit money, cigarettes, drugs and other illegal activities banned by U.N. resolutions adopted after the North's nuclear and missile tests last year. The U.S. currently blacklists more than 20 North Korean entities and individuals.

Beijing is considered a key to effective sanctions on Pyongyang because it is a lifeline to its impoverished communist neighbor, providing most of the fuel, food and other necessities.

China has been reluctant to slap sanctions on North Korea, focusing instead on reviving the six-party nuclear talks. (PNA/Yonhap)

ALM/ebp

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