US eases 50-year-old sanctions on North Korea

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The Independent Online

Less than a week after the historic summit meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea, the United States today formally implemented steps to ease half-century old economic sanctions against North Korea.

Less than a week after the historic summit meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea, the United States today formally implemented steps to ease half-century old economic sanctions against North Korea.

The new rules allow North Korea to export raw materials and goods to the United States alongside opening up air and shipping routes between the two countries.

While President Bill Clinton announced plans to ease sanctions nine months ago, formal implementation did not take place until today - just days after the groundbreaking summit in Pyongyang between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

An announcement in the Federal Register said most items subject to government export regulations may be exported or re-exported to North Korea without a license.

The plan also allows U.S. companies to invest in agriculture, mining and a variety of other sectors in North Korea.

The measures do not affect curbs relating to the U.S. nonproliferation objectives or to North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

That designation bars U.S. non-humanitarian assistance to North Korea and also U.S. support for North Korea in international lending institutions.

Additional information about the impact of the new measures and other details were expected at a news briefing later, officials said.

The timing of the announcement was widely seen as an attempt by the administration to build on the momentum generated at last week's summit meeting.

The summit produced an agreement to work toward the peaceful reunification of the peninsula and toward reuniting long divided families.

A Treasury Department fact sheet said the sanctions easing was designed to improve relations and to support a 1994 agreement under which North Korea vowed to freeze a nuclear weapons program and to substitute plutonium-producing reactors with safer light water reactors.

Another reason cited was to "encourage North Korea to refrain from testing long range missiles."

Following lengthy negotiations last summer, North Korea agreed to take that step in exchange for a U.S. commitment to ease sanctions.

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