U.S. gauges support on N. Korea

June 10, 1994|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration's top Korean crisis handler predicted Russian support for United Nations economic sanctions on North Korea yesterday but said he could not be sure of Chinese backing in the Security Council.

The support of China, North Korea's longtime ally, is essential because it holds veto power over Security Council actions. Russia also has veto power and strong economic ties to North Korea.

"We certainly hope, based upon our consultations, that we will have the Chinese with the rest of us on the Security Council, but I cannot predict that with confidence," said Robert L. Gallucci, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

China has consistently opposed international economic pressure on North Korea as a way to force it to abandon its development of a nuclear arsenal and has urged continuing diplomatic negotiation.

Without the support of China, which shares a border with North Korea, the impact of any sanctions on the already isolated and largely self-sustaining Pyongyang regime would be limited.

Shen Guofang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a Beijing news conference yesterday: "We do not agree on sanctions. Sanctions would only serve to push the opposing sides into confrontation with one another and result in a situation that no one would like to see."

But Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher, attending a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers in Istanbul, Turkey, expressed confidence that China would eventually support sanctions.

President Clinton recently discussed the Korean crisis with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, Mr. Gallucci said, adding: "I myself do not anticipate any difficulty or see any daylight between ourselves and the Russians."

As the administration continued to try to line up international support, the North Koreans repeated their warnings of war.

Foreign Minister Kim Yong Nam, on a visit to Ukraine, said that if the South Koreans "blindly follow the policies of the United States as to sanctions and finally start a war, then in the end South Korea will be devastated."

The North Korean Foreign Ministry also threatened Japan with "a deserving punishment" if it supported sanctions.

Carter to visit North

Cash remunerations from Korean expatriates in Japan are a major source of hard currency for North Korea, and their suspension would be a major economic blow.

The Associated Press reported that former President Jimmy Carter plans to visit North and South Korea next week as a private citizen. He hopes to discuss "important issues of the day with leaders."

The crisis centers on Pyongyang's refusal to permit examination by the International Atomic Energy Agency of spent fuel rods removed from its Yongbyon nuclear power plant.

The examination is essential to determine if North Korea diverted plutonium to nuclear weapons development.

Having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea is prohibited from acquiring or manufacturing nuclear weapons and is subject to international inspection.

Shared interests

Testifying to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Gallucci said China shared the U.S. interests in preventing North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula and maintaining regional stability.

But he added: "I am not prepared to try to predict how the Chinese will vote on a specific sanctions resolution, particularly not knowing what that resolution will look like."

Mr. Gallucci said that if the Chinese vetoed U.N. sanctions, the administration "would not walk way from the issue" but would seek "a coalition of the willing" to bring international pressure to bear on the North Koreans.

Negotiations on the scope of the sanctions are continuing in New York. Mr. Gallucci refused to predict how extensive the package would be or when agreement on the language would be reached.

Japan still on board

Denying published reports that Japan was backing away from sanctions, he read a statement, endorsed by the Japanese government, saying that Tokyo supported appropriate action against North Korea, including U.N. sanctions.

"There are no grounds for portraying U.S. and Japanese views as diverging on this issue," he said.

Pressed by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., Mr. Gallucci refused to rule out unilateral U.S. action to end the North Korean nuclear program. He noted that North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons and their possible future sale to the Middle East posed a threat to U.S. national security.

North Korea, he said, had already sold Scud missiles to Syria and Iran.

"If we put all this together, we have an extraordinary threat over time that could materialize from North Korea," he said.

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