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Seoul welcomes UN condemnation of NKorean missiles

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 14:12 IST
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South Korea on Monday welcomed the UN's condemnation of North Korea's latest missile salvo, as a US official headed for China to try to tighten financial sanctions against the communist North.

The Security Council described Saturday's launches as a violation of UN resolutions and a threat to regional and international security.

"The government views it as a quick and appropriate measure," said Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-Young.

The North test-fired seven ballistic missiles in an act of defiance apparently timed for the US Independence Day holiday, its biggest salvo of ballistic weaponry since Independence Day in 2006.

The launches came as Washington pushes for tough enforcement of UN sanctions passed after the North's May 25 nuclear test, which aim to shut down its nuclear and missile programmes.

In its latest action Monday the council "condemned and expressed grave concern" over the launches, issuing a relatively mild and non-binding statement.

But Japan, which had requested the meeting, welcomed the statement.

Japan's cabinet was expected Tuesday to send to parliament a bill allowing the coast guard to inspect North Korean ships for nuclear and missile-related materials, in line with the UN resolution.

The US Treasury, in a statement on its website, said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey would leave Monday for China and Hong Kong to pursue "efforts to prevent North Korea from advancing its nuclear and missile programmes."

It said he would hold talks with senior officials and private executives from Wednesday to Friday on preventing the North from misusing the international financial system "to buy and sell dangerous technology" and engage in other illicit activities.

Levey accompanied an inter-agency team to China led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg early last month.

And he played a key role in a 2005 blacklist of Macau's Banco Delta Asia, which effectively froze 25 million dollars in North Korean assets there and prompted other foreign banks to suspend transactions with Pyongyang.

Another US delegation met last Thursday with Chinese officials for talks on implementing the sanctions.

The team led by Philip Goldberg -- the State Department's point man on coordinating implementation of the sanctions -- later flew on to Malaysia.

Malaysian officials denied knowledge of allegations, made in a South Korean media report, that North Korea had sought payment through a Malaysian bank for a suspected shipment of weapons bound for Myanmar.

The Kang Nam 1, the ship at the centre of the weapons claims, abandoned its voyage and turned for home after being shadowed by the US Navy.

Washington officials have cited the incident as the first success in efforts to enforce the sanctions.

Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of US naval operations, said Monday the case of the Kang Nam was "a very effective way" of stopping proliferation.

Since a long-range rocket launch in early April, the North has staged its second nuclear test, fired a variety of smaller-range missiles, renounced the truce in force on the Korean peninsula and walked out of nuclear disarmament talks.

US and South Korean officials believe ailing leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, is staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son Jong-Un.