- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

NEW YORK — The United States yesterday watered down elements of its U.N. Security Council condemnation of North Korea to win crucial support from Russia and China, but appeared unlikely to get the vote it is seeking by today.

Washington wants a tough rebuke this week of Pyongyang’s announcement of a nuclear test, as well as legally binding measures to close down the communist state’s access to nuclear and military materiel and illicit sources of funding.

“Differences remain on some important aspects of the resolution,” John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, acknowledged after a morning of meetings. “We will continue to work on it, but not at the cost of sending a swift and strong response.”

But Russian and Chinese U.N. ambassadors urged the resolution co-sponsors to slow down and leave some room for diplomacy — both in their own capitals and directly with the North Korean regime.

China launched its own initiative yesterday, dispatching State Councilor for Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan to Washington, where he met with President Bush in the Oval Office and also conferred at the White House with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Christopher R. Hill. Today he plans to travel to Russia for further talks.

“I think the Chinese clearly understand the gravity of the situation,” Miss Rice told reporters later at the State Department. “They clearly understand that the North Koreans doing this have made the environment much less stable, much less secure.”

She credited China with working very hard to get a tough resolution through the Security Council.

Miss Rice plans to visit Japan Monday, while South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is expected in Beijing the day before for meetings with top officials.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, leveled new threats at Japan, which on Wednesday announced a unilateral halt to trade with North Korea and a ban on its vessels entering Japanese ports. Tokyo today approved additional measures, including a total ban on imports from the country.

A North Korean diplomat in Japan, Song Il Ho, told the Kyodo News agency his country “will take strong countermeasures.”

The U.S.-drafted resolution, which is co-sponsored by Japan, Britain, France and Slovakia, calls for all states to embargo materials that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear, ballistic missile or weapons programs, freeze assets linked to counterfeiting and smuggling, and impose a travel ban on senior officials. It allows states to inspect cargo moving to or from the North’s ports.

The resolution also demands that Pyongyang immediately renounce nuclear weapons and return to various international nonproliferation regimes, and resume without preconditions the six-party talks with the United States and the North’s neighbors.

The resolution makes provisions for humanitarian assistance and legitimate trade on which the bankrupt and famine-wracked nation depends.

The newest versions of the resolution delete language that would have demanded that nations close their ports to North Korean goods, ships and planes.

Mr. Bolton yesterday acknowledged “a relatively modest number of changes” but insisted the draft still had enough teeth to curtail North Korea’s illegal trading and pursuit of nuclear weapons and energy programs.

The Security Council has been meeting in various formats every day since Pyongyang said early Monday that it had tested a nuclear device. That action galvanized many nations, including those which Mr. Bolton had taunted as Pyongyang’s “protectors in the council.”

“The nuclear test conducted by [North Korea] is an irresponsible action and this action has to be firmly opposed and condemned,” said Wang Guangya, China’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“The response and action the council is considering should be firm, forceful and also appropriate,” he added. “By appropriate I mean it should reflect the feelings of the international community and more important, should [lead] to a solution of this issue by peaceful means.”

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