Southeast Asian countries persuaded to come on board
By Chung Min-uck
David Cohen, Senior U.S. Treasury Department official
Seoul and Washington will discuss ways of drawing support from Southeast Asia nations for financial sanctions against North Korea to rally international cooperation against Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs.
David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department, arrived in Seoul on Monday for a two-day visit to discuss bilateral collaboration on the matter, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"The U.S. knows that sanctions are effective when the entire international community gets involved," a ministry official said. "In this regard, the U.S. official is visiting here and there."
Cohen is scheduled to make back-to-back visits to Singapore and Malaysia after his Seoul trip. He will hold talks Tuesday with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun and Cho Tae-yong, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, and will also meet with finance officials here to discuss ways to step up cooperation in implementing sanctions on the North as well as Iran.
The U.S. official is in charge of imposing financial sanctions on those countries.
His March trip to Asia encompassed South Korea, Japan and China where he urged the countries to follow U.S.' sanction imposed on the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea.
Agreeing to the request, Bank of China, China's leading state-owned bank, announced later that it closed the account of the North Korea's main foreign exchange bank.
The move comes following the adoption of a new U.N. sanctions resolution that bans U.N. member countries from engaging in financial activities with North Korea that enhances the communist country's nuclear or missile capabilities.
North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, despite warnings from the international community, to face stringent U.N. sanctions, which ended up raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is considered to be a cornerstone for North Korea's diplomacy in Southeast Asia.
Pakistan, a nuclear weapon state, used to provide North Korea with nuclear technologies and manufacture weaponry components via the Southeast Asian country, until the U.N. started tracking the flow of Pyongyang's arms trade following its series of nuclear and missile tests.
Reportedly, the Malaysian Strait of Malacca is also one of the main sea routes for North Korean ships.
In addition, Malaysia has yet to report to the U.N. Security Council on its performance regarding the implementation of the latest North Korea sanctions adopted on March.
The close relationship between the two countries is amply demonstrated by the fact that Malaysia is one of only two countries to which the North's flag carrier Air Koryo runs non-stop flights. The other is its major benefactor China.
Other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia also have been close to North Korea. Delegates of Vietnam and Laos visited Pyongyang on July 27 when it held a large-scale event in commemoration of the end of the Korean War (1950-53).
Myanmar and Cambodia also did not report to the U.N. Security Council about their activities in implementing restrictions toward North Korea.
The issues to be discussed also include the impact that Washington's sanctions on Iran are having on South Korean companies doing business with the Middle East country.
The meeting comes after South Korea's Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok expressed concerns during the recent group of 20 meeting in Moscow that the sanctions on Iran are posing challenges for many South Korean small- and medium-sized companies doing business there.
"The visit is intended for general discussions on (bilateral) cooperation relating to sanctions," a Foreign Ministry official said, adding that the U.S. official will meet with Cho Tae-yong, South Korea's chief negotiator to the long-stalled six-party talks.
The six-way dialogue involving the two countries as well as North Korea, China, Japan and Russia is designed to persuade the North to discard its internationally condemned nuclear programs, but the talks have been suspended since late 2008.