United Nations (AFP) Oct 09, 2006
US-proposed Security Council sanctions over North Korea's atom-bomb test would include international inspection of inbound and outbound cargo to curb proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a Western diplomat said Monday. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the inspections were part of 13 elements for a draft resolution circulated by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton earlier Monday to punish Pyongyang for its first-ever nuclear weapons test.
US media have quoted intelligence officials saying one option being considered is to have US and allied naval forces intercept and search all North Korean bound shipping for weapons-related material.
The diplomat said the tentative draft "would authorize international inspection of cargo to and from North Korea to limit proliferation" and "prohibit trade in all materials with direct or dual use application for weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."
Other elements would also call for suspending "all activities related to (North Korea's) ballistic missile programs", urge "member states to take steps to ensure their territory is not used to facilitate WMD-related activities" and bar "financial transactions that support missile activities."
"I laid out the number of elements that the United States was asking Council members to consider in a sanctions resolution under Chapter Seven," Bolton told reporters after the council met behind closed doors to consider the issue.
Chapter Seven of the UN charter provides for mandatory sanctions or even as a last resort military action to ensure compliance with council resolutions in cases of "threats to international peace and security."
"The entire discussion took only 30 minutes. And that's remarkable in the Security Council to have a unanimous condemnation of the North Korean test, no one defended it, no one even came close to defend it," Bolton said. "I was very impressed by the unanimity of the council on the need of a strong and swift answer."
China's UN envoy Wang Guangya, whose country maintains close ties with Pyongyang, said he was ready to discuss with his colleagues "how the council should react constructively and prudently with regard to this challenge."
The US ideas would have the council "prohibit trade in all military goods and services" as well as "trade in luxury goods", "freeze assets and transactions associated with WMD" and take steps "to prevent abuse of financial system", an apparent reference to alleged counterfeiting activities by the North, according to the diplomat.
The tentative draft would also condemn Monday's test and reinforce missile-related sanctions passed by the Security Council last July after Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles in Japan's direction, including a long-range Taepodong-2 believed to be capable of striking US soil.
The US suggestions, to be taken up by council experts later Monday, call for a review of North Korea's "response" and "the need for additional action in 30 days."
Last week, Japan, which chairs the council for October, and the United States had pushed for inclusion of a threat to slap an arms embargo and other trade and financial measures under Chapter Seven of the UN charter, if North Korea went ahead with its test.
But in the face of opposition from China and Russia, the explicit mention of sanctions was removed from a non-binding statement adopted by the council Friday.
The United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan engaged North Korea in negotiations a year ago aimed at convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and diplomatic rewards.
But North Korea walked away from the six-party talks two months later, after Washington slapped sanctions on a Macau-based bank it said was involved in money-laundering and counterfeiting on behalf of Pyongyang.
earlier related report
Washington imposed a near total economic embargo on North Korea at the start of the Korean War in June 1950, only beginning to ease the sanctions slightly from 1989 amid efforts to draw the reclusive Stalinist regime into the international community.
A series of measures aimed at encouraging North Korea to not develop nuclear arms culminated in a June 2000 Executive Order legalizing most transactions between US and North Korean nationals.
The order allowed many products to be sold to North Korea, though sanctions affecting trade in military, so-called dual-use and missile-related items remained in place.
But imports from the country remain under tight restrictions, managed by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, and North Korean assets frozen since 1950 remained frozen.
While restrictions on US investments in North Korea and on the travel of US citizens to North Korea were also eased under the 2000 measure, the two countries have no formal diplomatic relations and have never officially ended the Korean War.
Most forms of US economic assistance, other than purely humanitarian aid, remain prohibited and North Korea does not enjoy "Normal Trade Relations" with the United States, so allowable exports are hit by high tariffs.
The State Department acknowledges that "US economic interaction with North Korea remains minimal" and that Washington's leverage over the reclusive regime is limited.
"There's not a lot to grab hold of," commented a senior State Department official about the hunt for ways to impact the North Korean economy bilaterally.
North Korea receives the bulk of its imports over the Chinese and Russian borders and relies on hefty aid from South Korea, giving those three governments far greater potential leverage in economic sanctions.
Washington did find one powerful pressure point last year when the Treasury Department slapped sanctions against a Macau-based bank, Banco Delta Asia, which US officials charged was the main conduit for bringing North Korean counterfeit dollar bills into the international system.
Washington and its allies have long contended North Korea uses counterfeiting, drug trafficking and sales of weapons to prop up its ailing economy.
The US decision to designate the Banco Delta Asia a "primary money-laundering concern" left the bank teetering and could foreshadow similar action targetting other financial transactions by the North.
Many analysts pointed to the banking sanction as possibly the main reason North Korea went ahead with its nuclear test shock at this time.
The North Koreans were "feeling under a great pressure from the United States and the sanctions that were being imposed, particularly the financial sanctions," said David Albright, a former UN nuclear weapons inspector.
"I think this test is coming from that sense of being backed into a corner," he said.
earlier related report
"The breaking of a de-facto global moratorium on nuclear explosive testing that has been in place for nearly a decade and the addition of a new State with nuclear weapon capacity is a clear setback to international commitments to move towards nuclear disarmament," he added.
The official North Korean news agency, KCNA, said Monday the country had successfully tested a nuclear device, which would make it the eighth nation to master this type of technology.
If confirmed, the test would be the first atomic explosion since Pakistan's six tests in 1998.
ElBaradei said in his statement that there was an "urgent need - more than any time before - for establishing a legally binding universal ban on nuclear testing through the early entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)."
Ten years after its adoption by the United Nation's General Assembly, this treaty has not yet taken effect because only 34 of the 44 states which have nuclear capacity have ratified it. Pyongyang refuses to sign.
Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, chairman of the treaty's organisation, CTBTO, on Monday said the test was "a threat to international peace and security ... (that) jeopardized the process of global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and aggravated regional security."
In a statement, he called on North Korea to sign and ratify the CTBT and urged it "not to engage in any nuclear testing and to exercise in the future every restraint, in order to avoid steps that will have major international repercussions." The CTBTO told AFP Monday it had detected an "event" registering 4.0 on the Richter Scale in North Korea. But the body is not qualified to officially confirm nuclear tests registered by its monitoring systems.
The IAEA, whose inspectors were kicked out of North Korea in 2002, also has no independent way of detecting such tests. But a diplomat close to the agency said a test could be deemed successful, as is claimed by North Korea, when there has been an "explosion and chain reaction".
The source added that tests conducted by nuclear powers have also failed in the past, including in the United States and in the former Soviet Union.
"It is one thing to build a bomb, but to know how to make it work, that is another thing," the diplomat, who refused to be named, said.
Since 1994, the IAEA has kept a close eye on North Korea's nuclear activities at its plant in Yongbyon, but it has been unable to verify the full extent of its frozen nuclear programme.
Relations between North Korea and the international community deteriorated in late December 2002 after the communist regime said it was lifting the freeze on its nuclear facilities and kicked out the UN watchdog's inspectors.
North Korea withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in January 2003 and admitted five months later that it was seeking nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei and the IAEA board of governors have since then called in vain for UN inspectors to be allowed to return to North Korea as soon as possible to assess the country's nuclear facilities.
Monday, the IAEA director-general said he continued to believe in the importance of finding a negotiated solution to the current situation.
"Resumption of dialogue between all concerned parties is indispensable and urgent," he said, in reference to stalled six-party talks between Pyongyang and China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States.
earlier related report
Council members met early Monday to condemn the underground weapons test shortly after they recommended that the 192-member General Assembly elect South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon to succeed Kofi Annan as UN secretary general.
They strongly condemned the test which defied their non-binding statement adopted last Friday and vowed a "strong and swift" response.
Japan's UN envoy Kenzo Oshima, the current council president, said members also called on Pyongyang "to refrain from further testing" and return to six-nation disarmament talks.
Later in the day, envoys of the five veto-wielding members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- huddled with tbheir Japanese colleague to take stock.
"We agreed that we will cooperate with each other in order to get some form of resolution as early as possible," Oshima said.
"This was basically a reaction on general lines about how to proceed and timing," US Ambassador John Bolton said. "We made it clear that we'd like to move as soon as possible."
Bolton said some delegations needed to consult with their respective capitals on how to proceed.
"I think the mood in the council was very somber," he added, noting that members "recognize this is a significant threat to international peace and security."
"I'm not going to get into specifics ... so far the reactions have been positive," the US envoy said.
His Chinese colleague said the North Korean test "is a serious challenge" that required "firm action" by the council. He did not elaborate.
A Western diplomat said the US proposals include international inspection of inbound and outbound cargo to curb proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a Western diplomat said Monday.
They would also call for suspending "all activities related to (North Korea's) ballistic missile programs", urge "member states to take steps to ensure their territory is not used to facilitate WMD-related activities" and bar "financial transactions that support missile activities."
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Venezuela Condemns North Korea Nuclear Test
Caracas (AFP) Oct 09, 2006
Venezuela on Monday condemned North Korea's nuclear bomb test and called for the peaceful use of atomic power. "We condemn all nuclear tests because of the immense damage to the planet, to life on the planet," Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. "We oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons and we are making an effort the world over to have those countries with nuclear weapons gradually disarm," he said.
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