WASHINGTON(Reuters/AFP) - President Barack Obama on Monday expanded financial sanctions against North Korea amid signs that the isolated nation is hoping for an early resumption of stalled nuclear talks. Obama signed an order which allows Washington to go after the assets of North Korean entities that trade in conventional arms and luxury products and that counterfeit US currency all steps US officials hope will sharpen pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to abandon nuclear programs seen as a direct threat to US allies South Korea and Japan. The individuals, including two members of the North Koreas General Bureau of Atomic Energy were sanctioned under rules against providing financial and other support to the nuclear power. They will face a travel ban and assets freeze. Among those targeted were the head of the atomic energy bureau Ri Je-son and Ri Hong-Sop, who according to the United Nations, once ran the controversial Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center. The centre is suspected of producing fissile materiel used in nuclear weapons testing. The fresh sanctions come amid tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, which have heightened since the March sinking of South Korean navy ship the Cheonan that resulted in 46 deaths. The United States blames North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang denies torpedoing the ship. Chinese state media confirmed that Kim, who rarely leaves his country, visited China in recent days and told Chinese President Hu Jintao that he remained committed to the 'denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has not shifted in its support of the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and does not want to see tensions on the peninsula, Kim told Hu in the northeast Chinese city of Changchun, according to Chinese state televisions main evening news. The new US sanctions steps, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton generally outlined in July, aim to target the leadership of the isolated, authoritarian nation, which is preparing for a key party congress that analysts say could nail down succession plans. Obamas order said North Koreas actions had destabilised the Korean Peninsula and constituted an unusual and extraordinary threat to US interests. US analysts said the timing of the US sanctions announcement was not necessarily related to Kims visit to China, which is his countrys only major ally and is seen as anxious to resume stalled multilateral talks on North Koreas nuclear program. Chinas Hu said maintaining peace and stability in Korea was everyones aspiration and that the talks should be restarted as quickly as possible, the report said. Political analysts said Kims words appeared intended to ease tensions after the sinking of the South Korean ship, but noted many obstacles to resuming the six-party talks aimed an ending Pyongyangs nuclear weapons development. North Korea removed one irritant to its relationship with the United States on Friday when it released US citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was arrested in January and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for entering the country illegally. Chinas state television showed Hu and an alert-looking but limping Kim hugging each other. Kim is widely believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and in previous public appearances has come across as haggard and shuffling. Foreign analysts say Kim may be hoping to secure Chinas backing for plans to install his son Kim Jong-un as the next head of the dynasty that has led North Korea since its founding more than 60 years ago.