(ATTN: ADDS photo; CLARIFIES press corps' affiliation in 2nd para, countries' names in last para)
By Lee Haye-ah and Joint Press Corps
PARIS/SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) -- France will adopt strong standalone sanctions against North Korea to punish the regime for its defiant nuclear and missile tests as Pyongyang shows no intention of giving up its weapons programs through talks, a senior French diplomat said.
Emmanuel Lenain, director-general of the French foreign ministry's directorate for Asia and Oceania, said in an interview with the Joint Press Corps of South Korea's Foreign Ministry that although France believes the North Korean nuclear issue should ultimately be resolved through dialogue, now is the time to put further pressure on Pyongyang.
"It's a very difficult time because North Korea is not taking steps conducive to reconciliation," he said at his office in Paris, Wednesday. "As long as Pyongyang doesn't make peace overtures, it's absurd and useless to have talks."
France is one of the five permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, which last month slapped the toughest sanctions to date on Pyongyang in response to its nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7. The sanctions include the mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of the North and a ban on the country's exports of iron, coal and other mineral resources that serve as a key source of hard currency for the regime.
The European Union has also imposed sanctions on North Korea both within and outside the framework of the Security Council resolution. Last week, it blacklisted Korea National Insurance Corporation, North Korea's state-run insurance company, citing its suspected involvement in raising funds for the country's nuclear, missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs.
"The aim of the sanctions is to force Pyongyang to make rational decisions and we hope they'll lead to talks," Lenain said. "In addition to the EU sanctions, France is preparing a set of strong sanctions."
The standalone measures will be in line with the Security Council resolution and could expand the list of people under a travel ban or strengthen economic and financial sanctions.
France is one of two EU countries that have no diplomatic relations with North Korea. The other country is Estonia.
Lenain warned that should Pyongyang carry out another provocation, the international community will respond to it, such as by increasing pressure on the regime to improve its human rights record.
The official also rejected Pyongyang's calls for peace treaty talks, saying the North should first take steps toward denuclearization.
North Korea has recently called for talks on a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in an armistice, leaving the Koreas technically still at war. South Korea has dismissed the overture as a ploy to divert attention away from the North's nuclear conundrum.
On this year's celebrations marking the 130th anniversary of South Korea-France diplomatic ties, Lenain said his country is very proud and happy about the dozens of cultural events to take place in Korea throughout the year.
He also expressed hope for greater exchanges between the sides, saying the two countries are well placed to cooperate in creative and innovative areas.
Asked to give advice on ways to overcome the historical rows among South Korea, Japan and China, Lenain stressed that the solution can only be found among the countries concerned.
Europe achieved post-war reconciliation when those responsible acknowledged their wrongdoing and France accepted the apology with a view toward the future, he said.
"It required a lot of courage and the leaders of the two countries (France and Germany) had to make significant decisions," he said.
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