Council split over NK action

As US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton formally introduced a revised sanctions draft in the council in preparation for an expected vote on Friday, his Chinese and Russian colleagues made it clear they were not happy with the text as it stood.

Asked about prospects for a vote on Friday, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya replied: “I’m not sure. We have to see the final text, because there are many common grounds, but there are some disagreements.”

While stressing that North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday was “an irresponsible action” that must be “firmly opposed and condemned”, Mr Wang said a response by the council should be “firm, forceful and also appropriate”.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin also said a vote on Friday was unlikely.

“We think there should be a strong (council) reaction, but it has to be a cool-headed reaction,” he noted. “In this part of the world (Northeast Asia), some strong statements made by others in the Security Council have aggravated matters, so we do not want to repeat this on the level of the Security Council.”

Mr Churkin said more discussions were necessary, citing the ongoing flurry of international diplomatic activity to defuse the crisis, including a visit by
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseyev to Northeast Asia and
Chinese special envoy Tang Jiaxuan’s planned talks in Washington and Moscow.

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

But Mr Bolton said there was overwhelming support within the council for the harsh sanctions proposed by the US and Japan.

“We are still trying to persuade China of the overwhelming sentiment of the other members of the council to support these provisions (of the US sanctions draft),” Mr Bolton said.

Earlier Mr Wang suggested that Beijing would accept sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which authorises sanctions not involving the use of force, such as economic and diplomatic sanctions.

US draft resolution

The new US draft invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which legally opens the door to mandatory sanctions to face down threats to international peace and security.

It calls for inspection of all seaborne cargo to and from North Korea, as well as financial sanctions, and demands that Pyongyang scrap all of its programs involving nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles “in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”

It also calls on Pyongyang to return immediately to six-party nuclear disarmament talks “without precondition” and provides for a travel ban on senior North Korean officials involved in the nuclear, ballistic missile and other WMD-related programs.

Japan meanwhile said it would ask the 192-member UN General Assembly to condemn Pyongyang for its nuclear test.

It also announced its own unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang, including a ban on all North Korean imports, which drew swift condemnation and a sharp warning from North Korea if Tokyo put them into effect.

North Korea has said that full-scale sanctions by the Security Council would be tantamount to a “declaration of war”.

Pyongyang says its nuclear weapons program is needed to deter an attack by the US and said the test was an attempt to get the US back to the bargaining table, an apparent call for one-on-one talks instead of the stalled six-nation negotiations.