SEOUL, South Korea — The chief U.S. official in charge of nonproliferation outlined a plan Monday to penalize North Korea by choking off the international network of front companies and banks that largely fund its nuclear weapons program and the lifestyles of its elite.
Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said during a trip to Seoul on Monday that new sanctions against North Korea will be finalized within several weeks. But he also emphasized the need for cooperation from other countries — China, in particular — to target the entities that do illegal business with North Korea.
Einhorn called it a "serious concern" held by many countries that China could capitalize on the situation, increasing its business dealings with a desperate Pyongyang. China could seize upon similar opportunities in Iran, which in June was hit by the latest round of U.N. sanctions.
"We want China to be a stakeholder in the international system," Einhorn said, "and not take advantage of the restraint of other countries."
The desire to increase pressure on North Korea — yet another attempt to push Kim Jong Il's government toward denuclearization — comes as a direct response to the March sinking of the Cheonan warship, which killed 46 South Korean sailors and raised fears of further provocations on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has denied involvement with the sinking, despite an investigation claiming otherwise.
According to Einhorn, North Korea accesses hundreds of millions of dollars annually by counterfeiting currency, smuggling narcotics and using overseas banks for illicit activities. Existing U.N. security resolutions already target some of these activities, but Einhorn said that upcoming penalties represented a strengthening of these sanctions.
"Our new measures will allow us to designate entities and individuals involved in these activities and to block any property or assets they posses that are under the control of a U.S. person or bank," Einhorn said. "But by publicly naming these entities, these measures can have the broader effect of isolating them from the international community."
For Einhorn, the trip to Asia — he'll head to Tokyo today — is a means to gather support for the sanctions, not only against North Korea, but also against Iran. Traveling with Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Glaser, Einhorn on Monday encouraged South Korea to approve new sanctions against Iran, as member countries of the European Union did last month.