U.S. may seek UN help on North Korea shipments
The United States is debating seeking a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to intercept shipments in or out of North Korea that may contain nuclear materials or components, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The newspaper, quoting senior officials of US President Bush's administration and diplomats briefed on the proposal, said the possible resolution would amount to a quarantine of North Korea, although it said White House aides were not using that word.
The Times quoted several American and Asian officials as saying the main purpose would be to provide China with political cover to police its border with North Korea, that country's lifeline for food and oil.
It was uncertain if China and South Korea, part of six-nation talks about North Korea's nuclear weapons program, would go along with such a plan, the paper reported.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying on Monday that any move by North Korea to test a nuclear weapon would only isolate it further and jeopardize its future.
The comments came amid growing concern about the North's continued refusal to resume multinational talks on its nuclear aims and after recent U.S. media reports that Pyongyang might be preparing for its first nuclear test.
"They are either heading toward a full nuclear breakout, so that we are forced to deal with them as an established nuclear power, or they are putting on quite a show for our satellites," a senior Bush administration official told the Times, adding the quarantine option had not been formally presented to the president.
The newspaper said the idea was being pressed by the Pentagon and members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff.
The top U.S. negotiator to the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, began discussions on Monday in Seoul on how to break the deadlock.
Washington has said North Korea could be taken to the U.N. Security Council for debate on possible sanctions if it continued to snub the six-party talks.
Administration officials told the Times the United States would not abandon the six-nation talks even if it went to the United Nations.