- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

12:47 p.m.

NEW YORK — North Korea must face “some punitive actions” for testing what may have been a nuclear device. China’s U.N. ambassador said today, suggesting that Beijing may be willing to impose some form of Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters that the council must give a “firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response” to North Korea.

“I think there has to be some punitive actions, but also I think these actions have to be appropriate,” he said.

China, which holds the key to whether tough U.N. sanctions will be imposed for North Korea’s actions, vented its anger earlier in Beijing when a Foreign Ministry spokesman said relations had been damaged.

“The nuclear test will undoubtedly exert a negative impact on our relations,” the spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said at a routine media briefing. He said yesterday’s test was done “flagrantly, and in disregard of the international community’s shared opposition.”

But Mr. Liu urged diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis and ruled out military action.

The North, meanwhile, stepped up its threats aimed at Washington, saying it could fire a nuclear-tipped missile unless the United States acts to resolve its standoff with Pyongyang, the Yonhap news agency reported from Beijing.

“We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified North Korean official as saying. “That depends on how the U.S. will act.”

The official said the North’s claimed nuclear test was “an expression of our intention to face the United States across the negotiating table,” reported Yonhap, which didn’t say how or where it contacted the official, or why no name was given.

Even if Pyongyang is confirmed to have nuclear weapons, experts say it’s unlikely the North has a bomb design small and light enough to be mounted atop a missile. Their long-range missile capability also remains in question, after a test rocket in July apparently fizzled out shortly after takeoff.

The Bush administration rejected direct talks with North Korea again today and said it would not be intimidated by the reported threat.

“This is the way North Korea typically negotiates — by threat and intimidation,” said U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who was interviewed on CNN and on CBS’ “The Early Show. “It’s worked for them before. It won’t work for them now.”

Mr. Bolton, scheduled to meet with the U.N. Security Council later today, cast the standoff with Pyongyang as one “between North Korea and the rest of the world.”

Asked about the possibility of U.S. military action against North Korea, including a possible naval blockade, Mr. Bolton said, “Well, we’re not at that point yet.”

“We keep the military option on the table because North Korea needs to know that, but President Bush has been very clear he wants this resolved peacefully and diplomatically,” Mr. Bolton said.

Washington has asked the U.N. Security Council to adopt a measure that would curb the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings.

Meanwhile, Japan’s leader said the country could impose sanctions on North Korea without waiting for confirmation of its suspected nuclear weapons test. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers his nation still had no intention of seeking atomic weapons, easing fears of a new regional nuclear arms race.

“There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles,” he said.

Measures could include a total trade embargo, stricter financial sanctions, banning North Korean nationals from entering Japan, blocking North Korean boats from Japanese ports and ordering ships already in Japan to leave, officials and news reports said.

Earlier today, Japan’s lower house of Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution protesting Pyongyang’s move.

“As the only country to have ever suffered a nuclear attack … Japan strongly condemns North Korea’s actions and demands that it abandon its nuclear weapons program,” the resolution read. Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled by American atomic bombs in 1945.

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