US aims to pass resolution on N.Korea

Updated: 2006-10-12 10:31
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UNITED NATIONS - The United States hopes to pass a new draft UN Security Council resolution on Friday to punish North Korea over its claimed nuclear test, US Ambassador John Bolton said.

The new draft, which the US will formally introduce on Thursday, is part of American and Japanese efforts for a quick Security Council rebuke to North Korea for its alleged test Monday, which raised tension surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear program and drew near-universal condemnation from around the world.

"There are still a lot of comments that have been made, and areas of disagreement, but as we've said repeatedly, we think this requires a strong and swift response," Bolton said Wednesday after a meeting with the ambassadors of Britain, France and Japan.

"Now, we're certainly prepared for further discussion but today is late Wednesday and to have a vote by the end of the week, we need to move expeditiously tomorrow, which we're going to try to do," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the United States to hold bilateral talks with North Korea and called on North Korea not to escalate an "extremely difficult" situation.

"I have always argued that we should talk to parties whose behavior we want to change, whose behavior we want to influence, and from that point of view I believe that ... (the) US and North Korea should talk," Annan said.

The United States has refused to talk one-on-one with North Korea except on the margins of six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Bolton was quick to dismiss Annan's remarks, saying only: "I think we've expressed our view on that."

The Americans' new offering introduces significant changes to a previous draft resolution, circulated by the US on Tuesday. The latest draft was expected to be circulated later Wednesday, when details were likely to be made known.

The previous draft would prohibit trade in materials that could be used to make or deliver weapons of mass destruction, and require states to ensure that North Korea not use their territory or entities for proliferation or illicit activities. Financial transactions that North Korea could use to support those programs would also be banned, under the previous draft.

However, China wants a far more limited package of sanctions, connected solely to the North's nuclear program. While it says its neighbor should be punished, officials want the scope of the sanctions to be focused more narrowly.

Another issue of dispute is how strongly to enforce the resolution. The United States and Japan want the resolution passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would allow the council to enforce it with sanctions, a blockade or even military force.

Yet China wants to invoke only Article 41 of Chapter 7, which removes the threat of a blockade or military force. Article 41 would allow "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations."

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya left a morning meeting with only one comment -- that Chapter 41 "serves our purpose."

A UN Security Council diplomat said the latest draft would probably retain the full mention of Chapter 7 -- clouding prospects that the document could be passed on the American schedule. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the document has not been released.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council's nominee for the secretary-general, backed a quick resolution. He was in New York to meet with diplomats before the General Assembly vote that will formally name him Annan's successor.

"My government has expressed our strong support for the speedy action to be taken by the Security Council and we'll have a close consultation with the members of the Security Council," he told The Associated Press.

The debate - with the US, Britain and France facing off against China and Russia - echoes the arguments made during Security Council negotiations over how sternly to rebuke Iran for its suspect nuclear program. In that case, because of Chinese and Russian resistance, the council agreed to invoke Chapter 7's Article 40, which is even weaker.

The Chinese stance drew frustration from Japan which, more than anyone else, wants tougher sanctions.

"We do recognize, acknowledge that they have made some effort, but in our view, we would have to ask them to make further efforts," Japan's UN Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said.