Slashdot It! In a effort targeting the lifestyle of N's president, the Bush administration wants to make it tougher for him to buy iPods, plasma televisions, Segway electric scooters and more.
It is Washington's first-ever attempt to use trade penalties as a way of personally aggravating a foreign leader. They target items believed to be favored by Kim Jong Il or presented by him as gifts to the roughly 600 loyalist families who run the communist government.
Kim, who orchestrated a secret nuclear weapons program despite international efforts to stop him, has other options for obtaining high-end consumer electronics and other luxuries.
Kim's life is harder: No more cognac, Rolex watches, cigarettes, artwork, expensive cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles or even personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis.
The ban would extend even to musical instruments and sports equipment. The 5-foot-3 Kim is an enthusiastic basketball fan; Secretary of State"While North Korea's people starve and suffer, there is simply no excuse for the regime to be splurging on cognac and cigars," Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said Wednesday in a statement. "We will ban the export of these and other luxury goods that are purchased for no other reason than to benefit North Korea's governing elite."
Gutierrez said penalized items were "carefully considered and carefully targeted."
Experts said the U.S. luxury sanctions would be the first ever to curtail a specific category of goods not associated with military buildups or weapons designs — and the first tailored to annoy a foreign leader. They acknowledge that enforcing the ban on black-market trading would be difficult.
In Beijing, U.S. and North Korean diplomats failed to reach agreement on when they might resume disarmament negotiations on Kim's atomic weapons program. Japan's Kyodo News agency cited unidentified people at the talks as saying that Kim demanded the U.S. freeze the penalties on luxury goods and other items imposed after the North's first nuclear test on Oct. 9.
The population in North Korea, one of the world's most isolated economies, is impoverished and routinely suffers food shortages. The new trade ban would forbid U.S. shipments there of Rolexes, French cognac, plasma TVs, yachts and more — all items favored by Kim but unattainable by most of the country.
Reinsch predicted governments will comply with the restrictions, but agreed trying to block all underground shipments will be frustrating.
Practically, few American companies ship anything to North Korea. U.S. exports amounted to only $5.8 million last year. Nearly all of it was food. Although the new penalties would cover "personal digital music players," such as iPods, Microsoft Corp. said its new "Zune" handheld player was never intended for sales overseas.
"The thousands of Americans and Canadians who build, ship and sell personal watercraft are patriots first," said Maureen Healey, head of the trade group. She said it endorsed the ban "because of the narrow nature of this ban and the genuine dangers that responsible world governments are trying to stave off."Defectors to have described Kim giving expensive gifts of cars, liquor and Japanese-made appliances to his most faithful bureaucrats.
"If you take away one of the tools of his control, perhaps you weaken the cohesion of his leadership," said Robert J. Einhorn, a former State Department official who visited North Korea with Albright and dined extravagantly there. "It can't hurt, but whether it works, we don't know."
U.S. intelligence officials who helped produce the Bush administration's list said Kim prefers Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac cars; Japanese and Harley Davidson motorcycles; Hennessy XO cognac from France and Johnny Walker Scotch whisky; Sony cameras and Japanese air conditioners.