BEIJING // The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced a raft of new sanctions against North Korea today as punishment for its torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March in an unprovoked attack which killed 46 sailors. "Today, I'm announcing a series of measures to increase our ability to prevent North Korea's [nuclear] proliferation, to halt their illicit activities that helped fund their weapons programmes and to discourage further provocative actions," Mrs Clinton told reporters there. Mrs Clinton arrived in South Korea today for unprecedented "two-plus-two" security talks, in which the secretary of state and the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, met their South Korean counterparts to show support after the deadly naval attack.
The officials, in a joint statement, warned Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations against South Korea and stressed that "there would be serious consequences for any such irresponsible behaviour". Pyongyang has denied involvement in the sinking of the South Korean ship, the Cheonan. After the incident, South Korea took Pyongyang to the UN Security Council, seeking punitive measures.
While the council issued a non-binding presidential statement condemning the attack, China had it watered down so that North Korea was not identified as the culprit and no measures were passed. Pyongyang called it a "diplomatic victory". Beijing is also uneasy about a planned joint naval exercise between the US and South Korea starting on Sunday which will involve the movement of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier near to China's waters. Its foreign ministry expressed "resolute opposition". After the UN statement, North Korea expressed its willingness to return to the stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks, an apparent sign of its wish to "turn the page" after the Cheonan incident, which further tarnished its international image.
Mrs Clinton said resuming the nuclear talks "is not something we're looking at yet". She said the North should first take responsibility for the ship sinking and demonstrate sincere willingness to dismantle its nuclear programme. "But to date, we have seen nothing." email@example.com