Washington - The United States, which backed the independence of South Sudan, will take targeted sanctions against those involved in the conflict which has ravaged the young nation for the past four months, the state department said.
Secretary of State John Kerry met on Thursday with the South Sudanese Minister in the Office of the President, Awan Riak, the department said in a statement.
This comes as the country which gained independence in July 2011 is torn by a civil war between the army of President Salva Kiir and rebel fores loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
President Barack Obama signed a decree April 3 authorizing punitive sanctions, such as seizure of assets and visa bans, against anyone in South Sudan deemed to be threatening peace efforts, targeting UN peacekeeping forces and violating human rights.
The sanctions "can and will be used against those who contribute to conflict by undermining democratic processes or institutions or by obstructing the peace process and against those who commit human rights abuses in South Sudan", the State Department statement said.
The US "will not stand by while the hopes of a nation are held hostage to short-sighted and destructive actors", the statement said, without specifying who would be targeted by the sanctions nor when they would be imposed.
The conflict in South Sudan has left thousands dead and forced close to a million to flee their homes. It erupted on 15 December in the capital Juba before spreading to other states in the oil-rich nation.
The fighting has been pitting soldiers loyal to the president against mutinous troops who sided with Machar, who was dismissed in 2013.
President Kiir accuses his rival of trying to oust him. Machar denies this and says the president is trying to purge his party ahead of elections in 2015.
A ceasefire was signed on 23 January but has been repeatedly broken. A second round of peace talks that took place briefly in Ethiopia have been suspended until the end of April.
The United States, the country which most pushed for the birth of South Sudan, has pressured hard in recent months for the two sides to avoid the implosion of the new state.