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(LEAD) S. Korea hails new U.S. sanctions on N. Korea

All Headlines 10:49 April 01, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean government officials said Saturday the fresh U.S. sanctions on North Korea reflect its resolve to get tough on Pyongyang, which continues to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

"It's a resolute warning message," a foreign ministry official said in response to Washington's announcement that it has blacklisted a North Korean trading firm and 11 individuals believed to be involved in the financing of the Kim Jong-un regime's weapons of mass destruction development.

It marks the first punitive step by the Donald Trump administration particularly on Pyongyang since it was launched in January, the official noted.

The move reminds Pyongyang that it has no choice other than denuclearization, he added.

On his trip to Seoul last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear that the North would face more pressure and sanctions if it remains recalcitrant. He stated that the U.S. leaves "all options" on the table, indicating that military action would be considered if needed.

The fresh sanctions on Pyongyang aim to help cut the financial source of the North's missile and nuclear programs.

The sanctioned entity, Paeksol Trading Corp., has traded North Korean coal and minerals, with the 11 individuals linked to the North's banks, defense industries and arms sales.

"Today's sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, "I urge our partners and allies to take similar measures to cut off its funding."

It's unclear whether Pyongyang will feel the pinch from the additional sanctions as it's already shackled by a wide web of U.N.-led sanctions.

The measure came amid reports that the secretive nation is preparing for another nuclear test and more missile launches.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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