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China, Russia Resist North Korea sanctions

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer


UNITED NATIONS - China and Russia resisted an attempt in the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against North Korea for its missile launches Wednesday, saying only diplomacy could halt the isolated regime's nuclear and rocket development programs.

Japan, backed by the U.S. and Britain, circulated a resolution that would ban any country from transferring funds, material and technology that could be used in North Korea's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

China, the North's closest ally, and Russia, which has been trying to re-establish Soviet-era ties with Pyongyang, countered that they favor a weaker council statement without any threat of sanctions. Both countries hold veto power in the council, making sanctions unlikely.

North Korea, which has proclaimed itself a nuclear weapons state, has said sanctions would amount to a declaration of war. China and Russia are clearly concerned that a U.N. demand for such measures would only make the current situation worse and delay a return to six-party talks. China and Russia are part of the talks along with North and South Korea, the United States and Japan.

In a possible sign that Moscow's and Beijing's position may carry the day, President Bush addressed the issue in a subdued manner without the harsh warnings that he had issued as recently as last week when he said that a missile launch would be unacceptable.

Bush said Wednesday that the failure of North Korea's long-range missile test does not lessen the need to push the communist regime to give up its nuclear weapons program.

"One thing we have learned is that the rocket didn't stay up for very long," Bush said about the Taepodong-2 missile that failed 42 seconds after liftoff Tuesday. "It tumbled into the sea."

"It doesn't diminish my desire to solve this problem," he said in Washington.

Bush spoke by phone to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and they agreed to cooperate in pushing for a U.N. resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Thursday. The U.S. president also spoke to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and they agreed to cooperate on the missile issue, a South Korean official said.

The failure of the Taepodong-2 missile — the object of intense international attention for more than a month — suggested a catastrophic failure of the rocket's first, or booster, stage. A working version of the intercontinental missile could potentially reach the United States with a light payload.

The North also fired six shorter-range missiles on Wednesday, arguing it had the right to such launches. All of them apparently fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

Major South Korean newspapers reported Thursday that North Korea has three or four more missiles on launch pads ready to be fired. The North barred people from sailing into some areas off the coast until July 11 in a possible sign of preparations for additional launches, said Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea's largest dailies.

Tokyo responded swiftly by barring North Korean officials from traveling to Japan, and banned one of its trading boats from entering Japanese waters for six months.

In South Korea, separated from the North by the world's most heavily armed border, officials said Wednesday's tests would affect inter-Korean initiatives such as the dispatch of food and fertilizer from the South to the North, but stressed that diplomacy was the best way to solve the crisis.

Both Japan and South Korea are within range of North Korean missiles.

The Security Council held an emergency session at Japan's request, and council experts met late Wednesday for about 1 1/2 hours to discuss the draft resolution. Council diplomats said China and Russia stuck to their demand for a presidential statement — not a resolution. Experts will meet again Thursday morning and council ambassadors may then meet in the afternoon to review progress, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the current council president, said after the council meeting that all 15 members "expressed deep concern" at the missile tests.

"Thirteen delegations were in favor of a resolution, and two delegations thought a presidential statement would be more appropriate," he said, confirming that these were China and Russia.

"It's too early to say at this moment what the outcome will be except to say that there is an agreement in the council to act swiftly and firmly," de La Sabliere said.

The draft resolution proposed by Japan and obtained by The Associated Press would condemn North Korea's ballistic missile launches and deplore its role as "the world's leading proliferator of ballistic missiles and related technology." It would demand that Pyongyang immediately halt "the development, testing, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles and reconfirm its moratorium on missile launching."

If approved, the council would strongly urge North Korea to return immediately to the six-party talks "without precondition" and stop all nuclear-related activities with the aim of completely dismantling its nuclear programs, including both plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya and Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin both noted that after North Korea shocked Japan in August 1998 by blasting a Taepodong-1 missile over its territory and into the Pacific Ocean, the Security Council reacted merely with a press statement.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima called Wednesday's launches "far more serious."

North Korea's "possible combination of nuclear weapons with missile development and testing" is unacceptable and requires "quick, strong action" by the Security Council, he said.

Flanked by the U.S. and British ambassadors, Oshima said possible sanctions against North Korea "may be discussed, but that, of course, is up to the council."

China's Wang expressed regret and concern at the missile tests, but left far more ambiguity over how much council action would be acceptable to Beijing.

He stressed the importance of constructive actions to maintain peace in north Asia.

Asked what the council could do to promote peace, Wang replied: "I think that in 1998 similar circumstances that the Security Council issued some sort of comments or statements. We'll see."

Russia's Churkin said that while "a strong and clear message is needed to North Korea," the goal should be a resumption of six-party talks, which have been suspended since last September, and a diplomatic solution.

"We believe that at this point a strong and clear message is necessary from the Security Council to North Korea," he said, backing a presidential statement which becomes part of the council's record unlike a press statement.

Russia is "troubled" by the impact of the launches on region security and the Korean nuclear issue, he said. "And of course we cannot overlook the fact that according to some information which is being verified some missile fragments fell not far from the Russian territory."

Churkin cautioned, however, "against whipping up the emotions too much" and urged all everyone to be "clear-headed" and keep in mind the need for talks to achieve a diplomatic solution.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the council must send a "strong and unanimous signal" that North Korea's missile test-launch was unacceptable.

The initial council discussion "was very interesting because no member defended what the North Koreans have done," he said. "I think there is support for sending a clear signal to Pyongyang."

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon refused to talk to reporters Wednesday when he arrived at his country's U.N. mission, shielding himself with a large black umbrella against the rain and the media barrage.

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