The Security Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to measures that build on  a series of travel bans and asset freezes. The US-drafted resolution imposes  sanctions on North Korea’s space agency, targets the illicit smuggling of  sensitive items and updates a list of nuclear and ballistic missile technology  prohibited for transfer in or out of the country. ”Some may say these sanctions are ‘low-hanging fruit’ and don’t really bite  as tightly as they might, yet two factors make these sanctions meaningful,”  said George Lopez, a former UN sanctions investigator on North Korea. ”It signals that consequences await a future violation of any type and acts  on recommendations regarding smuggling networks and specific materials to be  prohibited.”  Mr Lopez teaches at the Kroc Institute for International Peace  Studies at the University of Notre Dame. North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in December, boosting  its ballistic capabilities after a failure in April. South Korean officials have  warned that the North is prepared to conduct a nuclear weapons test ”soon” in  a follow-up to the missile launch. Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his late father Kim Jong-il as North Korea’s  leader in December 2011, has sought to boost foreign investment while showing no  willingness to return to nuclear disarmament negotiations. His foreign ministry on Wednesday announced an ”end” to the six-nation  talks, which have not met since December 2008. ”While there will be dialogue in the future for peace and stability on the  Korean peninsula and the region, there will not be dialogue on  denuclearisation,” the ministry said, quoting an unidentified spokesman. Incoming South Korean president Park Geun-hye  has said  a nuclear North  Korea is ”unacceptable under any situation”, and vowed to ”respond firmly”  to any future ”reckless provocations” by the North, her spokesman  said on  January 13. Ms Park, who takes office on February 25, promised during her campaign to  revive inter-Korean dialogue to mend ties battered during her predecessor Lee  Myung-bak’s term. South Korea, a new non-permanent member of the Security Council, welcomed  Tuesday’s actions, citing close co-operation with the US and Japan as well as  discussions with China – North Korea’s most powerful diplomatic backer. Ms  Park’s delegation of special envoys were to meet incoming Chinese leader Xi  Jinping on Wednesday. The most significant aspect of the UN vote may be political, with China  siding against its ally and neighbouring communist regime in the world body for  the first time in four years. North Korea has ignored repeated calls to abandon its nuclear weapons program  and to also stop test launches to develop long-range ballistic missiles that  could carry nuclear warheads. www.smh.com]]>

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