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SEOUL — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced new sanctions against North Korea Wednesday intended to pressure the reclusive Pyongyang regime to end its nuclear weapons program and cease any further provocations against South Korea.

At a news conference with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and their South Korean counterparts following a high-level security meeting, Clinton said the sanctions are aimed at stopping North Korea’s sale and proliferation of nuclear weapons and the illegal activities, such as counterfeiting, that fund them. She also held out the prospect of normalized relations between the U.S. and North Korea and a permanent peace treaty if the Communist nation cooperates.

The new measures include asset freezes, travel bans and efforts to shut down illicit North Korean businesses operating overseas, Clinton said. The specifics of the sanctions are still to be worked out, officials said.

“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long under the misguided and maligned priorities of their government,” Clinton said, following the first-ever meeting of the U.S. and South Korean secretaries of defense and state, billed as the two-plus-two talks.

Curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions has taken on more urgency since the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean ship that was on patrol near the disputed maritime border with North Korea. Forty-six crewmembers died.

A South Korean-led international investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo split and sank the ship. North Korea has repeatedly denied its involvement and threatened military action if sanctions are imposed.

Wednesday’s security meeting was also a show of South Korean-U.S. unity. The two military allies announced Tuesday that they will conduct a series of military exercises over the coming months, starting with the “Invincible Spirit” naval and air exercise scheduled to kick off Sunday and involving 8,000 troops.

Clinton said targeting the assets of North Korea’s leaders is part of a three-pronged strategy that includes a strong military presence and intensive diplomacy with other nations in the region. She said meeting U.S. demands would lead to the end of sanctions against North Korea, which is already under U.N. sanctions.

Clinton said the six-party talks between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia will not resume until North Korea takes steps acknowledging it is ready “to end its provocative and belligerent behaviors,” including admitting its responsibility for the Cheonan sinking.

Gates said both countries must be vigilant about further military provocations from North Korea, and he was “disappointed” that he had not met with China’s minister of defense in the wake of the Cheonan sinking.

“We are obviously concerned by some of the things China has said, some of the things China is doing in the military area,” he said. “They are worrying, but that is all the more reason to open this dialogue.”

Gates and Clinton visited the Demilitarized Zone earlier Wednesday.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

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