SEOUL, South Korea — Searching for new ways to punish North Korea after blaming it for sinking a South Korean warship in March, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will strengthen existing sanctions against the North and impose new restrictions on its weapons trade and trafficking in counterfeit currency and luxury goods.
Administration officials traveling here with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered few details of what seemed a hastily put-together addition to other warnings and measures of displeasure already announced. On Tuesday, the United States and South Korea said they would hold "large scale" military exercises in an attempt to deter further hostile acts by North Korea.
On an unprecedented joint visit Wednesday to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, Clinton and Gates marked the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Clinton said that as she gazed through binoculars across the most heavily guarded border in the world, "it struck me that although it may be a thin line, these two places are worlds apart."
Gates was making his third trip to the DMZ; Clinton had never been there. The defense secretary said his last visit was 20 years ago, when he was director of the CIA. "It is stunning how little has changed up there and yet how much South Korea continues to grow and prosper," Gates said. "The North, by contrast, stagnates in isolation and deprivation. And, as we saw with the sinking of the Cheonan, it continues its history of unpredictable and, at times, provocative behavior."
Clinton and Gates later laid a wreath at the Korean War memorial and met with their South Korean counterparts.
The Cheonan, a South Korean frigate, sank in what an international team of investigators later determined was a torpedo attack. South Korea and the United States charged the attack, which killed 46 sailors, came from a North Korean vessel. The North has denied responsibility.