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As Tensions Between North Korea And U.S. Rise, Clinton Hints At Weapons Interdiction

In yet another of a series of provocative acts, North Korea sentences those American journalists to a labor camp for unspecified "grave acts." In th

In yet another of a series of provocative acts, North Korea sentences those American journalists to a labor camp for unspecified "grave acts." In the meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council is considering new sanctions against the nation, while North Korea promises any such move will be met with "extreme" measures:

TOKYO, June 8 -- A North Korean court sentenced two U.S. journalists to 12 years in a labor camp Monday, as the government of Kim Jong Il continued to ratchet up tension with the United States and its neighbors.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, television reporters detained in March along North Korea's border with China, received harsher sentences than many outsiders had expected. But several experts in South Korea predicted that talks will begin soon to negotiate their release.

As tensions rise, the Obama administration hints it's considering seizing North Korean weapons shipments:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration signaled Sunday that it was seeking a way to interdict, possibly with China’s help, North Korean sea and air shipments suspected of carrying weapons or nuclear technology.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Friday in Washington with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan of South Korea.

The administration also said it was examining whether there was a legal basis to reverse former President George W. Bush’s decision last year to remove the North from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.

The reference to interdictions — preferably at ports or airfields in countries like China, but possibly involving riskier confrontations on the high seas — was made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was the highest-ranking official to talk publicly about such a potentially provocative step as a response to North Korea’s second nuclear test, conducted two weeks ago.

While Mrs. Clinton did not specifically mention assistance from China, other administration officials have been pressing Beijing to take such action under Chinese law.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Mrs. Clinton said the United States feared that if the test and other recent actions by North Korea did not lead to “strong action,” there was a risk of “an arms race in Northeast Asia” — an oblique reference to the concern that Japan would reverse its long-held ban against developing nuclear weapons.

So far it is not clear how far the Chinese are willing to go to aid the United States in stopping North Korea’s profitable trade in arms, the isolated country’s most profitable export. But the American focus on interdiction demonstrates a new and potentially far tougher approach to North Korea than both President Clinton and Mr. Bush, in his second term, took as they tried unsuccessfully to reach deals that would ultimately lead North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

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