U.N. Considers Condemnation of North Korea
By DAVID STOUT
July 5, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 5 — President Bush expressed concern for the people of North
Korea today as he called on the country's leadership to abandon its missile program and end
its self-imposed isolation.
"The North Korean government can join the community of nations and improve its lot," Mr.
Bush said. "It's their choice to make."
The president spoke as the United Nations Security Council
met in emergency session to consider a resolution condemning North Korea
for test-firing seven missiles early today, including an intercontinental missile that failed 42 seconds after it was launched.
Mr. Bush's remarks, delivered as he met in the Oval Office
with President Mikhail Saakasvili of Georgia, seemed calibrated to point
out a failure in the North Korean experiment while reiterating the United
States' concern over the launches.
Noting that a North Korean intercontinental missile "tumbled
into the sea" after a short flight, he quickly said that fact "doesn't, frankly, diminish my desire to solve this problem."
When he was asked what diplomatic steps could be taken to
further isolated a country that is already one of the most insular in the world, Mr. Bush replied somewhat indirectly, saying
that he was "deeply concerned" about the plight of ordinary North Koreans, who have been suffering from shortages of basic
necessities for years, even as its leadership spends heavily to maintain a sizable army.
Mr. Bush said the "international community" must continue
to pressure Kim Jong Il, the North Korean dictator, to renounce his missile ambitions. "There is a better way forward for
his people," Mr. Bush said.
His remarks followed a flurry of diplomatic activity and reaction
in Washington, at the United Nations in New York and abroad over the latest sword-rattling by North Korea, a small barrage
of launchings that began before dawn today in defiance of warnings from President Bush and the governments of Japan, South
Korea and China.
In New York, Kenzo Oshima,
the United Nations ambassador from Japan,
which requested the Security Council session, said after a preliminary round of talks, "We hope that the response of the council
is swift, strong and resolute."
Japan and South Korea imposed economic penalties
on North Korea today, and Mr. Oshima said
that the council would be considering possible sanctions.
The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said that intelligence
reports were indicating that North Korea may fire a few more short- or medium-range missiles in the next few days.
One of the seven missiles fired over the Sea of Japan today
was the intercontinental missile that had been at the center of recent tensions with North Korea, known as the Taepodong 2. American spy satellites have been watching
the missile for more than a month as it was set up and fueled on a remote launching pad.
The multistage missile is designed to be capable of reaching
Alaska, and perhaps the West Coast of the United States,
but American officials who tracked its launching said it fell into the Sea of Japan before
its first stage burned out.
"The Taepodong obviously was a failure — that tells
you something about capabilities," Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, told reporters on a conference
call Tuesday evening in Washington.
But other officials warned that even a failed launching was
of some use to the North Koreans, as their engineers diagnose what went wrong and learn how to improve the liquid-fueled rocket.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that the international
condemnation of the missile firings shows that North Korea
"perhaps miscalculated" and should "change its behavior."
"Whatever they thought they were doing, they got a very strong
response from the international community," Ms. Rice said.
The secretary, who appeared at a question-answer session in
Washington with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, said
"a number of tools" are available to get the North Koreans to stop engaging in the "brinksmanship" that it has long embraced.
Some analysts have speculated that North
Korea could have conducted the launchings as a way of increasing pressure on the United States to agree to bilateral negotiations in place
of the long-stalled six-nation talks on its nuclear program.
But Mr. Snow today said that "this is not a U.S.-North Korea
issue, and we are not going to permit the leader of the North Korea
to transform it into that."
The two countries most immediately threatened by North Korean
missiles, Japan and South Korea, both
reacted strongly today to news of the test firings. Officials in Tokyo announced that they
were suspending charter flights between Japan and North Korea, and halting for six months the once-a-week ferry service that is the
only scheduled direct passenger and trade link between the two countries. In Seoul,
officials said that they would withhold 500,000 tons of rice and 100,000 tons of fertilizer that the North had sought this
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Both countries, however, emphasized that they were not giving
up on diplomatic efforts. "Nothing can be solved without dialogue," said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan. "Both dialogue and pressure are necessary."
China, North Korea's
closest ally, issued a statement expressing "serious concern" over the launchings. But the statement also called on all sides
to "maintain calm and restraint," and to avoid moves that would "add to tensions and further complicate the situation."
Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the United Nations, called the test-firings regrettable. He noted that the Security Council had
responded to an earlier round of North Korean missile tests with a statement of concern.
In the past, China
has resisted moves to impose United Nations sanctions on North Korea,
but Mr. Oshima suggested that old positions could change because the new situation was "far more serious."
The American ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton,
said after the morning session that "no member defended what the North Koreans have done."
"There is support for sending a clear signal to Pyongyang," he said, referring to the North Korean capital.
European officials also sharply condemned the launchings,
but acknowledged that the options for punishing North Korea
A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, Mikhail Kamynin,
said on NTV television that the missile launchings "complicate the situation surrounding the Korean nuclear program," according
to news agencies.
One of the missiles reportedly landed in the sea about 155
miles from the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
In Brussels, the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization went further, urging North Korea
to return to the negotiating table but also calling for consequences.
Korea's missile proliferation and provocative actions necessitate a firm response from the
international community," a NATO statement said, calling the launching tests "a serious threat to the region and the international
community at large."
and France, officials condemned what they called a "provocative step" by
The missiles have been the source of considerable diplomatic
tension in recent weeks, because of North Korea's
declarations that it already possesses nuclear weapons. American intelligence agencies have told President Bush they believe
the North has produced enough atomic material for six or more weapons, but it is unclear whether they have actually used it
to make nuclear devices.
In any case, the country is not believed to have developed
a warhead small enough to fit atop one of its missiles, and it has never conducted a nuclear test, to the knowledge of American
The other missiles that the North fired today appeared to
be a mix of short-range Scud-C missiles and intermediate-range Rodong missiles, of the kind that the North has sold to Iran, Pakistan
and other nations. Those missiles also landed in the Sea of Japan.
None of the launchings was announced in advance. But the first
came just minutes after the space shuttle Discovery lifted off in Florida
— an event the North Koreans could monitor on television.
Administration officials said they could only speculate about
whether the missile launching had been timed to coincide with the shuttle launching or with Independence Day, but outside
analysts had little doubt.
"It's very in-your-face to do it on the Fourth of July," said
Ashton B. Carter, a Harvard professor who, with former defense secretary William J. Perry, had urged the Bush administration
to destroy the Taepodong missile on the launching pad, advice the administration rejected.
"Hooray if it failed," Mr. Carter said.
The last missile was fired about 12 hours after the first,
While the test itself was a sign of North Korea's defiance
of the United States, for the administration, the outcome was as favorable as officials could have hoped for: the North's
capacity was called into question, and the North's enigmatic leader, Kim Jong Il, has now put himself at odds with the two
countries that have provided him aid, China and South Korea.
"Our hope is that the Chinese are going to be furious," said
one senior American official, who declined to be identified.
Another official noted that only days ago, the Chinese indicated
that they were trying to put together an "informal" meeting of the long-dormant six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.
The North has boycotted those talks since September, citing
American efforts to close down the banks it uses overseas.
But North Korea had apparently not responded to the Chinese
invitation, and American officials said last week that the Chinese would not have made that gesture if they believed that
they were about to be embarrassed by the country that they once considered a close ally.
The launching also makes it difficult for the South Koreans
to continue their policy of providing aid and investment to the North, a program that has caused deep rifts with Washington. Administration officials said that Christopher R. Hill,
the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the main negotiator with North Korea,
would leave for Asia on Wednesday, and that they expected him to use the launchings to try to bring South
Korea and China around
to agree to impose some kinds of sanctions.
At the same time, the launching is likely to strengthen the
hand of hard-liners in the Bush administration who have long argued that the six-party talks were bound to fail. They now
have what one American diplomat called "a clear runway" to press for a gradually escalating series of sanctions, which some
officials clearly hope will bring down Mr. Kim's government.
But it is far from clear that China — which provides the North with its oil and much of its food —
would go along with any move for sanctions.
The firing ended weeks of speculation about the intentions
of Pyongyang, which had rolled out the Taepodong 2, its new long-range missile, in full view of American spy satellites, and
came despite severe warnings from the United States and countries in this region that a test would entail further isolation
and sanctions. The first missile was fired around 3:30 a.m. today, local time, according to the Japanese government.
American officials said they believe the Taepodong 2 was the
third missile fired, with the U.S. Northern Command saying that it was launched at 5 a.m. Korea time (about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Eastern time).
It was also unclear why North Korea fired short- and mid-range missiles, which it has tested successfully
in the past and of which it is said to own several hundred.
"One theory is that they knew that there was a probability
that things with the Taepodong 2 wouldn't work, so it was good to fire off a few missiles that would actually work," said
a senior Bush administration official, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak about this
In 1998, the last time the North tested a missile outside
its territory, Pyongyang fired the Taepodong 1, which flew over Japan before falling into the sea. That test set off a negative reaction in the
region, especially in Japan, which responded by strengthening its military
and its alliance with the United States.
In 1999, the North announced a moratorium on missile launches — a ban that it said last month no longer applied.
Intelligence from American satellite photographs indicated
in mid-June that the North was proceeding with the test-firing of the Taepodong 2 at a launching pad on North Korea's remote east coast. Satellite photographs showed
that the North Koreans had taken steps to put fuel into the missile, but the missile sat there until Wednesday morning, leading
to speculation that the North was simply staging the event in order to gain attention from the United States.
American officials had suggested that they might try to use
missile defense systems to shoot down the Taepodong 2 in midair.
Bad weather in this region was said to have delayed the launching,
because poor visibility would prevent the North from tracking its missile. But the North contradicted expert opinion by launching
its long-range missile in predawn darkness today.