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US Sees Key Issues Over North Korea Sanctions Resolved, Hopeful For Early UN Vote

File photo: The UN Security Council. Image courtesy of Mark Garten.
by Gerard Aziakou
United Nations (AFP) Oct 12, 2006
The United States on Thursday narrowed differences with China and Russia over mandatory sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear test and said it hoped a UN Security Council vote could be held by week's end.

"I don't want to say we've reached agreement yet, but many of the significant differences have been closed, very much to our satisfaction," US Ambassador John Bolton told reporters after attending a private meeting of envoys of six major UN powers at France's UN mission in New York.

Earlier Thursday, Bolton indicated that he would push for a vote on an amended text Friday despite reticence from China and Russia.

"I still think it's possible to have a vote before the week's end," he later said. "We have made very substantial progress."

His Japanese counterpart Kenzo Oshima, the council president for October, also said a vote Friday was "most unlikely."

"We've made really good progress. We are going to have informal consultations tomorrow," Oshima said. "If we are lucky, we (will be) ready for a vote, most likely Saturday."

Bolton and Oshima spoke after attending a round of private consultations with their colleagues from Britain, China, France and Russia.

Bolton said a new version of the US draft, co-sponsored by Britain, France, Slovakia and Japan, would be circulated late Thursday and that the council's 15 members would then relay it to their respective capitals for clearance ahead of a vote.

That meeting followed private consultations Thursday morning by the full 15-member council.

Meanwhile US President George W. Bush met Thursday with Chinese special envoy Tang Jiaxuan who agreed on the need for "strong measures" against North Korea.

"I think it's a positive sign that we all agree that we need a resolution and we need to go forward with strong measures," US Deputy national security adviser JD Crouch said following Bush's meeting with Tang, a State Councilor.

While there was no discussion of specific details of the US sanctions draft, there was "a broad understanding that there needed to be a strong response," Crouch told reporters.

Earlier Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya cast doubt on the prospect for a vote Friday and said Beijing still had problems with the US draft.

While stressing that Monday's North Korean nuclear test was "an irresponsible action" that must be "firmly opposed and condemned," Wang said a response by the council should be "firm, forceful and also appropriate."

"It should be helpful for leading to a solution of this issue by peaceful means, and it should also create conditions for the parties to once again, in negotiations, to settle this issue," the Chinese envoy added.

Wednesday, Wang suggested that Beijing would accept sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which authorizes sanctions not involving the use of force, such as economic and diplomatic sanctions.

But Chinese officials Thursday appeared to be softening their stance. "As to what measures to take, I think the measures themselves are not punitive action. ... Punishment is not the goal," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing.

Asked whether the Chapter Seven issue had been settled, Bolton replied: "I think it's been very satisfactorily resolved from our point of view, subject to our foreign ministers' agreeing to it."

Bolton also said that few changes had been introduced to the text.

The new draft condemns the nuclear test, calls for inspection of all seaborne cargo to and from North Korea as well as for an array of financial and military sanctions. It also demands that Pyongyang scrap all of its programs involving nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles "in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

It further calls calls on Pyongyang to return immediately to six-party nuclear disarmament talks "without precondition" and provides for a travel ban on senior North Korean officials involved in the nuclear, ballistic missile and other WMD-related programs.

The draft however dropped an earlier Japanese demand that member states bar North Korean ships and aircraft from their airports and seaports.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin earlier stressed the need for more discussions before a vote, citing an ongoing flurry of international diplomatic activity to defuse the crisis.

"The international community will easily understand if, on a matter of this gravity and importance, the Security Council will take a few more days to have a united response to the challenges we face from this explosion in North Korea," Churkin said.

But Bolton said there was overwhelming support within the council for the harsh sanctions proposed by the United States and Japan to respond to Pyongyang's atom-bomb test in defiance of a council resolution.

earlier related report
North Korea Not Past Point Of No Return Says US
Washington (AFP) Oct 12 - The United States insisted Thursday that North Korea had not passed a point of diplomatic no return with its first nuclear weapon test and urged Pyongyang to follow other nations that have backed away from the nuclear brink. "Our view is that regardless of the state of their nuclear program and how they got there, that this is a reversible step," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of North Korea's announced test explosion on Monday.

"There are other examples of countries that have sworn off their nuclear weapons programs and nuclear weapons -- you can point to South Africa, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Libya is the most recent example," McCormack said.

"So there is precedent for this, and the encouragement to North Korea, as well as the encouragement of the rest of the world, is to follow those examples."

The United States and its allies pressed ahead Thursday with efforts to pass a robust sanctions resolution against North Korea at the United Nations.

Washington, backed notably by Japan, is seeking tough punitive measures designed to starve North Korea's weapons programs of funds and technology and to further isolate the reclusive Stalinist state on the world stage.

Despite reticence from China and Russia to some of the specific measures pushed by Washington, McCormack was confident the UN would adopt "a good, strong resolution that sends a clear strong message to the North Korean regime that they have to change their behavior, that this behavior will not be tolerated".

And he held out the prospect of reviving six-party negotiations with Pyongyang if it agrees to verifiably suspend its nuclear program.

In the negotiations China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States offered North Korea significant economic and political rewards for giving up its nuclear program.

The talks began in September 2005 but have been boycotted by North Korea since November that year after the US administration imposed sanctions on a bank believed to act as a money-laundering center for Pyongyang.

The US has in the meantime rejected efforts by North Korea to start two-way talks.

"If at some point they choose to avail themselves of the mechanism of the six-party talks to achieve some of the things that they say they want to achieve, that's certainly positive," McCormack said.

"The six-party mechanism remains. It is there."

McCormack noted that other nations which agreed to give up their nuclear arms or weapons programs "have benefited from the decision".

"So we would encourage them to do so," he said.

earlier related report
US pushes for UN vote on North Korea Friday
United Nations (AFP) Oct 12 - The United States said Thursday that, despite resistance from China and Russia, it would push for a UN Security Council vote Friday on a draft resolution mandating tough sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear test.

"I do not preclude the possibility of a little bit of delay but it is the intention of the US and co-sponsors to have a vote tomorrow," Japan's UN envoy Kenzo Oshima, the council president for October, told reporters.

Asked about prospects for a vote Friday, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya replied: "I'm not sure. We have to see the final text, because there are many common grounds, but there are some disagreements."

His Russian colleague Vitaly Churkin also stressed the need for more discussions before a vote, citing an ongoing flurry of international diplomatic activity to defuse the crisis.

"The international community will easily understand if, on a matter of this gravity and importance, the Security Council will take a few more days to have a united response to the challenges we face from this explosion in North Korea," Churkin said.

Oshima said the US draft, co-sponsored by Britain, France, Slovakia and Japan, might still be amended in consultations among a restricted group of council members later in the day.

But Bolton said there was overwhelming support within the council for the harsh sanctions proposed by the United States and Japan to respond to Pyongyang's test in defiance of a council resolution.

"We are still trying to persuade China of the overwhelming sentiment of the other members of the council to support these provisions (of the US sanctions draft)...in preparation for a vote tomorrow," Bolton said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack voiced confidence that a "strong resolution" would be adopted.

"Is the final product going to look like a wish list of the United States or other states? No. Of course not. That's the give and take of multilateral diplomacy," he said.

"But we believe that what we will get is a good strong resolution that sends a clear strong message to the North Korean regime that they have to change their behavior, that this behavior will not be tolerated," McCormack added.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she did not know if a Security Council vote on sanctions would take place Friday, but added: "I think it will be soon."

US President George W. Bush also met Thursday with Chinese special envoy Tang Jiaxuan who agreed on the need for "strong measures" against North Korea, but the two did not focus on specific details of the US sanctions draft.

While stressing that Monday's North Korean nuclear test was "an irresponsible action" that must be "firmly opposed and condemned", Wang said a response by the council should be "firm, forceful and also appropriate".

"It should be helpful for leading to a solution of this issue by peaceful means, and it should also create conditions for the parties to once again, in negotiations, to settle this issue," the Chinese envoy added.

Wednesday, Wang suggested that Beijing would accept sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which authorizes sanctions not involving the use of force, such as economic and diplomatic sanctions.

But in Beijing, Chinese officials Thursday appeared to be softening their stance. "As to what measures to take, I think the measures themselves are not punitive action. ... Punishment is not the goal," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular press conference.

The new US draft invokes Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which legally opens the door to mandatory sanctions to face down threats to international peace and security.

It calls for inspection of all seaborne cargo to and from North Korea, as well as financial sanctions, and demands that Pyongyang scrap all of its programs involving nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles "in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

It also calls on Pyongyang to return immediately to six-party nuclear disarmament talks "without precondition" and provides for a travel ban on senior North Korean officials involved in the nuclear, ballistic missile and other WMD-related programs.

North Korea said Wednesday that full-scale sanctions by the Security Council would be tantamount to a "declaration of war".

Source: Agence France-Presse

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