Russia, China oppose North Korea sanctions

Updated: 2006-10-13 10:20

United Nations - Russia and China on Thursday opposed tough sanctions the US wants to impose against North Korea this week for its claimed nuclear test, saying they want time to work out a more moderate response to Pyongyang's nuclear brinkmanship.

After several hours of closed-door negotiations late in the day, Russia and China reported good progress.

The US envoy was even more upbeat after the meeting of the five permanent council ambassadors, the US, China, Russia, Britain and France, and the Japanese ambassador, who is this month's council president.

"We have made very substantial progress," US Ambassador John Bolton told reporters. "I don't want to say we've reached agreement yet, but many, many of the significant differences have been closed, very much to our satisfaction," he said.

Bolton said a revised text would be sent to capitals Thursday night so ministers can examine the changes before a full Security Council meeting on Friday. The changes were not immediately disclosed. Bolton said the US wants a vote on Friday but Japan's UN ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, said it would "most likely" take place Saturday.

China opposes any mention of the UN Charter's Chapter 7, which authorizes punishments including economic sanctions, naval blockades and military actions. China and Russia want to see sanctions focus primarily on reining in North Korea's nuclear and weapons programs.

The measures to which Russia and China object were in an earlier revised US draft resolution. The US circulated the draft late Wednesday, formally introduced it in the Security Council on Thursday. Britain, France, Japan and Slovakia signed on as co-sponsors to the revised draft, a softer version of the original American proposal circulated Monday.

"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," Bolton said earlier Thursday.

But Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the US should wait for the results of more diplomacy. China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya agreed, saying Beijing would welcome more talks so the Security Council can send a united and forceful message to Pyongyang condemning its claimed nuclear test.

Churkin said "the international community will easily understand if on the matter of this gravity and importance, the Security Council will take a few more days to have a reasoned and united response to the challenge we face from this explosion in North Korea."

"We think that there should be a strong reaction, but it has to be a cool-headed reaction," he said.

Without naming the United States, Churkin appeared to take aim at the tough US policy toward Pyongyang and US President Bush's inclusion of North Korea in the so-called "axis of evil."

"This resolution would be a very strong statement from the Security Council," Churkin said. "And we know that in this problem, in this part of the world, some strong statements made by others than the Security Council have hurt the entire thing, and have aggravated matters. So we do not want to repeat this on the level of the Security Council."

He said a high-level Chinese representative was en route to Moscow for talks on Friday and Saturday, and Russia's deputy foreign minister was in northeast Asia talking to the countries most affected by North Korea's announcement.

A special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Bush and top US officials in Washington on Thursday, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was due in Beijing on Friday for talks with China's top leaders, he said.

A US draft circulated earlier Thursday would condemn the claimed nuclear test, demand that North Korea immediately return to six-party talks on its nuclear program without precondition, and impose sanctions for Pyongyang's "flagrant disregard" of the council's appeal. It adds new words demanding that North Korea "not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile."

That draft remains under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Bush has said the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea and Bolton stressed that any military action would require another resolution.

The draft would require all countries to prevent the sale or transfer of arms, luxury goods, and material and technology which could contribute to North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs.

The resolution would also impose a travel ban on people supporting North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile and other weapons-related programs, a Japanese proposal.

The initial US draft called on all states to undertake and facilitate inspection of cargo to and from North Korea to ensure compliance with sanctions. The second draft would allow states to inspect cargo "as necessary" to ensure compliance and to prevent illegal trafficking.

In 2002, a ship carrying a dozen Scud-type missiles believed to originate in North Korea was intercepted in the Arabian Sea. US officials said the missiles were at least initially headed for Yemen.

The latest US proposal would still require countries to freeze all assets related to North Korea's weapons and missile programs, but a call to prevent "any abuses of the international financial system" that could contribute to the transfer or development of banned weapons was dropped.