U.S. Bans Luxury Exports to North Korea

The United States issued a formal rule banning exports of luxury items to North Korea, including jet skis, iPods, jewelry and fancy cars, in an effort to put pressure on the communist leadership in Pyongyang.

The rule issued by the U.S. Commerce Department details the kinds of luxury goods Washington plans to block under U.N. trade sanctions mandated after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test on Oct. 9.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke publicly about the luxury goods list on Nov. 29. But publication of a formal rule was delayed until Friday so U.S. negotiator Chris Hill could pursue diplomatic negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to end its nuclear programs, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Those negotiations, which took place recently in Berlin, appear to have made some progress, prompting predictions by Hill and Asian officials that six-country negotiations could soon resume.

The new rule says the United States will generally deny applications to export and re-export luxury goods to North Korea, including luxury automobiles, yachts, gems, jewelry, cosmetics, perfumes, furs, designer clothing, luxury watches, tobacco, wine, alcoholic beverages, recreational sports equipment and electronic software and equipment.

U.S. officials argue that this will help to erode support among the elite for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who enjoys the finer things in life and uses such gifts to curry favor with the military while most North Koreans live a subsistence life.