- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

NEW YORK — The United States and Japan yesterday pressed the U.N. Security Council to approve tough new sanctions against North Korea, amid near-universal condemnation of Pyongyang’s claim that it had tested a nuclear weapon.

Among the proposed steps was a forcible stopping and searching of ships traveling to and from North Korean ports to prevent the export of nuclear materials.

President Bush, speaking at the White House, said the North had “once again defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.”

Mr. Bush warned that any attempt by Pyongyang to export its nuclear technology to rogue states “would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”

The purported test was sharply criticized by all of North Korea’s neighbors, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.

North Korean officials said yesterday that they had conducted an underground nuclear test at a barren location in the country’s northeast, sparking an intense day of diplomacy in New York and in capitals around the world. The purported test came just three days after the Security Council unanimously denounced the idea.

U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton said yesterday that Washington and Tokyo are seeking a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to impose military, economic and diplomatic penalties on nations to protect international peace and security.

Mr. Bolton said he was impressed by the unanimity of the council’s approach to the North, in a morning session that lasted barely half an hour.

“No one defended [the missile test]; no one even came close to defending it,” the U.S. representative said.

The Security Council meets again today on the crisis.

China, North Korea’s main ally, has been reluctant in the past to support harsh measures against the North. But Mr. Bolton said Beijing had not objected when the tough measures were first outlined to Security Council ambassadors at yesterday’s closed emergency session.

“I didn’t see any protectors of North Korea in that room this morning,” Mr. Bolton said.

Wang Guangya, China’s U.N. ambassador, said his country was “formally opposed to [North Korea’s] nuclear test.”

“China is ready to discuss with other council members to see how the Security Council could react firmly, constructively, and prudently with regard to this challenge,” he said.

Mr. Wang did not say whether Beijing would support the coercive Chapter 7 measures, but he noted that “the door to solve this issue from diplomatic point of view is still open.”

Christopher Hill, the State Department’s point man on the North Korean nuclear issue, told CNN that U.S. policy now would be designed to “make [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il rue the day he made the decision” to proceed with the test.

U.N. diplomats said privately that Mr. Bolton told the Security Council session that Washington would view a North Korean attack on South Korea or Japan as an attack on the United States.

The U.S.-Japan draft resolution, in addition to urging North Korea to return to stalled regional talks on its nuclear program, proposed a range of sanctions against the secretive communist regime in Pyongyang, including:

• The inspection of all cargo shipped to and from North Korean ports to prevent nuclear proliferation.

• A travel ban on some North Korean officials.

• A ban on trade in luxury goods and military items with the North.

• A requirement that U.N. states freeze all assets related to North Korea’s weapons and missile programs.

• Increased scrutiny and prohibitions on North Korean financial transactions that could support nuclear or military programs.

Pyongyang’s U.N. ambassador, Pak Gil-yon, told reporters that the test would help “the maintenance and guarantee of peace and security in the Peninsula and the region.” He said other nations should “congratulate” the North for its success.

A North Korean official said the United States should agree to hold direct talks with his government on security guarantees to avert a situation in which Pyongyang would feel compelled to launch nuclear-armed missiles, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported today.

“We want this situation to be concluded before the unhappy situation arises in which we fire nuclear missiles, and this depends on how the United States acts,” the official was quoted as saying in Beijing on the condition of anonymity.

“What we want is North Korea’s safety, including a guarantee of our regime,” the official said.

North Korea did have one defender yesterday. Iran, which the United States and its European allies say is running its own clandestine nuclear weapons program, said on its state radio that U.S. “pressure and humiliation” had led North Korea to conduct the test.

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