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Report: S.Korea to ban entry from North

KWANG-TAE KIM, Associated Press | October 25 2006

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea said Thursday it will ban the entry of North Korean officials who fall under a U.N. travel restriction — Seoul's first concrete move to enforce sanctions imposed after the North's nuclear test.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok also said Seoul will control transactions and remittances relating to inter-Korean trade and investment with the North Korean officials, Yonhap news agency reported.

A U.N. committee on the sanctions, passed in response to North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test, has been working to outline how they will be implemented.

Meanwhile, Japan's foreign ministry on Thursday denied a news report that its government is planning a meeting with the U.S. and South Korea as early as next month to solidify a common stance on the North Korean nuclear standoff.

That report came amid growing concerns that South Korea was hesitant to join the U.S. and Japan in punishing North Korea.

Kyodo News agency, citing unidentified government officials, said the meeting among the allies will likely be held in Seoul, the South Korean capital, and include the nations' chief delegates on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The goal is to lay the groundwork for working-level meetings with the three and Russia and China, on the sidelines of November's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam, Kyodo said.

Seoul's Thursday decision begin enforcing a part of the sanctions came a day after North Korea warned its neighbor against imposing the punishment and a day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gently prodded South Korea to show a strong commitment to the sanctions.

Rice said the U.S. has no wish to tell Seoul how it should coexist with its neighbor. But she said the North's nulcear test requires a strong response.

"It requires a strong commitment by South Korea," she said in Washington. "Any activities need to be seen in the light of making certain to implement that resolution."

North Korea, however, warned the South against the sanctions.

"If North-South relations collapse due to reckless and imprudent sanctions against us, the South Korean authorities will be fully responsible for it and will have to pay a high price," said the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea's participation in sanctions is important as it is one of the key aid providers to the impoverished North, along with China. But Seoul has been reluctant to adopt stern measures for fear of further souring its relations with the North.

South Korea said this week it will send observers to U.S.-led anti-proliferation exercises under a program that could be used to halt North Korean weapons traffic in accordance with the U.N. sanctions.

But South Korea has been hesitant to fully participate in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, because of concerns it could lead to clashes with North Korea and spoil efforts to persuade the communist state to give up its nuclear ambitions through diplomacy.

Lee, the unification minister, told lawmakers that South Korea needs a "cautious approach" to the PSI as long as there is the possibility of armed clash between the two Koreas.


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