UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. and Japan said they want a vote today by the U.N. Security Council on a resolution imposing punishing sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test and demanding the elimination of all its nuclear weapons.
But last-minute changes sought by Russia and China could delay a vote. The five permanent council members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – and Japan met late Friday afternoon to discuss their concerns and were to meet again this morning before the full 15-member council convenes.
“I’m still ready to go for a vote, and we’ll just have to see what the instructions are overnight, in particular from Moscow and China,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said late Friday. “I thought we had agreed. We had agreed this morning that we were going to vote tomorrow morning.”
He said the changes sought by China and Russia were essentially technical and a vote could still be possible today.
In an effort by the U.S. and its allies to compromise, the latest draft expressly rules out military action against North Korea, a demand by the Russians and Chinese. The Americans also eliminated a complete ban on the sale of conventional weapons; instead, the draft limits the embargo to major hardware such as tanks, warships, combat aircraft and missiles.
But the resolution would still ban the import or export of material and equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, and would authorize all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking.
The accord came as North Korean ships loaded their final cargo of secondhand bicycles and household appliances in the Japanese port city of Sakaiminato after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet agreed to ban trade with the communist state. The unilateral Japanese sanctions also include a six-month ban on travel to Japan by all North Korean government officials.
The United States and other nations trying to persuade the North to give up its atomic program continued a flurry of high-level diplomatic visits. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned a trip next week to Asia; Russia sent an envoy to Pyongyang; and the presidents of China and South Korea – the North’s main sources of trade and aid – met in Beijing to discuss the proposed resolution.
Bolton said earlier Friday that the council’s agreement just five days after North Korea’s announcement it had detonated a nuclear device was “a sign of the determination of the council in the face of this threat to move quickly.”
The U.S.-sponsored draft would declare that Monday’s test claimed by North Korea had increased tension in northeast Asia, creating “a clear threat to international peace and security.”
The council’s moves coincided with a Russian news agency report that North Korea favors the implementation of a year-old agreement to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev speaking after consultations in Pyongyang.
If the Russian report is confirmed, it could signify a major breakthrough in efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
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