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Korea, Nowadays

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Essay title: Korea, Nowadays

Japan and Australia on Tuesday slapped fresh economic sanctions on North Korea, triggering protests from China that the move would worsen the standoff over Pyongyang's weapons programs.

The sanctions, which comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution that denounced North Korea's test firing of long-range missiles in July, ban fund transfers and remittances to 11 Pyongyang-based trading companies accused of bankrolling the country's weapons arsenal.

A North Korean bank and hospital, as well as Swiss company Kohas AG and its president, Jakob Steiger, were also affected by the restrictions, which took effect immediately.

''We have repeatedly used dialogue and pressure ... to achieve a peaceful resolution, but North Korea has not responded,'' Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said late Tuesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier in the day that the sanctions were consistent with his country's ''strong international stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.''

The Russian news agency ITAR-Tass quoted an unidentified North Korean diplomat as saying the Pyongyang regime was ''indignant about the new sanctions ... all these moves by Tokyo, as well as by Washington, are absolutely unjust, aimed at strangling our republic.''

The coordinated effort is meant to pressure North Korea to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear arms program, which have stalled since November 2005. At the talks, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program.

But China said the new sanctions would escalate, rather than defuse, the standoff.

''The six-party talks are facing a stalemate because of the financial sanctions issue,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, calling the situation on the divided Korean Peninsula ''sensitive and complicated.''

Beijing's protest highlights deep divisions in the region on how to deal with North Korea.

Japan and the U.S. prefer pressure as a means of getting North Korea to return to the negotiating table and give up its nuclear ambitions.


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