US, allies target N Korea finances after rocket test

Agence France-Presse . Paju
A man burns banners being held by protesters during an anti-North Korea rally in central Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. — Reuters photo

A man burns banners being held by protesters during an anti-North Korea rally in central Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. — Reuters photo

The United States and its Asian allies tightened the economic screws on North Korea Thursday, with the US Senate adopting fresh sanctions and South Korean firms abandoning a joint industrial park that helped fund Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.
The unilateral moves, which included Japanese sanctions, came with UN Security Council members still stalled on how far to go in punishing the North for its latest nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.
Following Seoul’s surprise decision to shut down the Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea, hundreds of South Korean trucks crossed the border Thursday morning to retrieve finished goods and equipment from the factories there.
Defending what it called an ‘unavoidable’ decision to close the jointly run park, Seoul said North Korea had been using the hundreds of millions of dollars in hard-currency that it earned from Kaesong to fund its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
The move was slammed as ‘utterly incomprehensible’ by owners of the 124 South Korean companies operating factories in the estate, who said their businesses were being destroyed by politics.
‘I’m speechless at what has happened,’ said Jang Ik-Ho, a manager with an engineering company in the complex.
‘The companies have all done our best to make things work, and now this happens. What did we do to deserve this?’ Jang said, as he prepared to cross into the North.
Seoul has called on Pyongyang to ensure the ‘safe return of our citizens’ amid concerns that the North Korean authorities might refuse to let everyone leave the park, which lies 10 kilometres over the border.

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