WASHINGTON -- Japan asked the U.N. Security Council yesterday to ban international sales of North Korean missiles as part of a response to provocative missile tests by the reclusive Stalinist regime.
The ban was contained in a draft resolution that was tougher than a version that circulated immediately after North Korea fired seven missiles, including a long-range rocket that exploded after liftoff, in defiance of demands to desist.
The United States, Britain and France - all permanent members of the Security Council - back the resolution.
The two other permanent members, Russia and China, are opposed. All five permanent members have veto power in the council.
The United States has pushed intensive diplomatic efforts, including calls by President Bush this week to President Hu Jintao of China and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, to try to gain support for a united response.
U.S. envoy Christopher Hill held talks in Beijing with Chinese officials. While they agreed to cooperate in preserving regional stability, Hill failed to persuade his counterparts to support the resolution.
Hill "hasn't gained much out there other than to get everyone on the same page of condemning the launches," said a U.S. official who closely follows North Korea and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy.
North Korea launched six short- and medium-range missiles and a long-range Taepodong-2 missile over a 14-hour period beginning Tuesday afternoon.
The six short- and medium-range rockets splashed harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, and the Taepodong-2, believed capable of reaching U.S. territory with a light payload, exploded about 40 seconds after liftoff.
The draft resolution's proposed ban of purchases of North Korean missiles or missile-related technology by other countries was aimed at shutting off one of the regime's major sources of hard currency.
The measure condemned North Korea for the firings, declared them and future launches "a threat to international peace and security" and directed Pyongyang to resume a self-declared 1999 moratorium on missile tests, according to a copy obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.
It also directed U.N. members to "take those steps necessary" to prevent missiles and related technology and materials from reaching North Korea and to block financial transfers to any entities involved in its missile or nuclear weapons programs.
Finally, the draft resolution strongly urged Pyongyang to "immediately return" to six-nation talks on eliminating its nuclear weapons program. Those talks have been stalled since November.
China's envoy, Wang Guangya, said his government wanted a nonbinding statement of condemnation containing no sanctions.
"If this resolution is put to a vote, definitely there will be no unity in the Security Council," he said, suggesting that China would abstain or veto it.
China, North Korea's only ally, opposes any actions that could destabilize the divided Korean Peninsula or the North Korean government.
U.S. officials hoped that China and Russia, which also favors a nonbinding statement, would abstain when the resolution is put to a vote.