Russia, China plead for time

Nations balk at U.S. draft resolution for U.N. sanctions against N. Korea

October 13, 2006|By Maggie Farley | Maggie Farley,Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States introduced a draft U.N. resolution yesterday seeking tough sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its announced nuclear test, pushing for a vote today, but Russia and China balked at two key measures and say they want more time.

The resolution calls for an arms embargo, a ban on goods related to North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and a freeze on financial activities that support them, as well as a travel ban for senior North Korean officials. It would allow the interception and inspection of suspected nuclear and missile materials going in and out of North Korea.

Russia and China, sensitive to the prospect of such activity so close to their borders, are concerned about whether inspection of all North Korean cargo would be legal. The two countries, which as permanent members of the Security Council hold veto power, also worry that the resolution would allow military action.

A special envoy from China met yesterday with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. White House spokesman Frederick Jones said Tang Jiaxuan told them that China agrees that "strong measures" are needed to punish North Korea but that Beijing only wants sanctions related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Afterward, Rice acknowledged that it would take more time to win the support of China, the country that would have to implement many of the sanctions. She said the vote probably would not occur today, "but I think it will be soon."

Tang was headed to Moscow for meetings today and Saturday, and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun was going to Beijing to discuss the matter.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he urged U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton to slow the process in order to ensure agreement by the United Nations Security Council and to prevent problems with implementation of the resolution.

Bolton said the United States would consider changes in the resolution but is determined to vote on it by the end of the week. He left it "open to interpretation" whether that meant today or Sunday.

"I think the council should try to respond to a nuclear test within the same week that the test occurred," Bolton said. "We're certainly in favor of keeping all the diplomatic channels open, but we also want swift action, and we shouldn't allow meetings and more meetings to be an excuse for inaction."

One sticking point is the use of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes the resolution legally binding and includes provisions for possible military enforcement. China and Russia said they are reluctant to endorse a full Chapter 7 resolution out of concern that it would open the door to military action, as in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Maggie Farley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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