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Terrorism & Security

UN, US close to imposing sanctions on North Korea

The UN Security Council is close to approving action in response to the North's latest nuclear test. The US also plans separate sanctions for illegal weapons sales and counterfeiting.

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Reuters writes that the US is currently working with South Korea to investigate the appearance in the Korean city of Busan of high-quality counterfeit bills, called "supernotes," which the US suspects are made in North Korea. But Reuters notes in another article that new sanctions imposed by the US may be limited "because the impoverished North's meager international finances have already been curtailed by sanctions."

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Agence France-Presse reports that in an unusual departure from its recent belligerence, North Korea has scheduled new talks with South Korea regarding the future of the Kaesong industrial zone. The Kaesong factory region in North Korea, where South Korean companies employ North Korean workers, has been one of the few areas of cooperation between the two nations. But Kaesong has been the topic of debate between the two in recent months, as North Korea has detained a South Korean manager since late March, and recently announced it was canceling current wage and rent agreements with the companies involved in Kaesong.

The BBC writes that with the current tensions between the two nations, the Kaesong talks, which are scheduled for next week, present South Koreans with a "rare opportunity to sit down with their opposite numbers from the North."

[The South Koreans] see the talks as a chance to protest against the North Korean's recent nuclear bomb test.
The North Koreans are not talking, in public at least, with anyone at the moment so the offer to meet is significant.
But past experience suggests their officials will see the talks simply as an opportunity to set out the new terms and conditions they want to impose on South Korean companies working on their side of the border.

But Bloomberg notes that the opportunity is apt to be limited, given North Korea's past behavior in similar negotiations over Kaesong.

While North Korea instigated the talks on the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, a similar request in April resulted in a meeting that didn't address the North's ballistic-missile launch earlier in the month. Their negotiators focused on demanding higher wages for the 38,000 North Korean workers employed by South Korean companies at the plants.
"For North Korea, the Gaeseong complex issue is separate from that of normalizing inter-Korean relations," said Cheong Seong Chang, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute in Seoul. "North Korea wants its workers to be treated at least equally as those in Vietnam or China."

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