john bolton 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Despite winning key concessions, Russia and China raised new objections that could delay a vote Saturday on a UN Security Council resolution imposing punishing sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test.
US Ambassador John Bolton said the changes sought by Moscow and Beijing were essentially technical in nature and a vote may still be possible Saturday.
S. Korea seeks proof on weapons test
The five permanent council members - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - and Japan were to meet in the morning before the full 15-member council convenes to discuss the changes.
"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," Bolton said late Friday.
The latest draft demands North Korea eliminate all its nuclear weapons, but expressly rules out military action against the country, 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.
In another key change to gain Chinese and Russian support, the resolution now says local authorities will cooperate in the inspection process, which covers shipments by land, air and sea. Both China and Russia share borders with North Korea and are uncomfortable with the possibility of the US interdicting ships near their coasts. Bolton said he expected most actions would be performed at ports.
The accord came as US officials said Friday that an air sampling after North Korea's claimed nuclear test detected radioactive debris consistent with an atomic explosion. However, the administration of US President George W. Bush and congressional officials said no final determination had been made about the nature of Monday's mystery-shrouded blast.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Results from another test disclosed Friday - an initial air sampling on Tuesday - showed no evidence of radioactive particles that would be expected from a successful nuclear detonation, a US government intelligence official said.
Japan also has not detected any unusual radiation traces five days after neighboring North Korea made its claim, a government official said Saturday.
North Korean ships, meanwhile, 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 US 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.
The US-sponsored draft would declare the claimed test had increased tension in northeast Asia, creating "a clear threat to international peace and security." It would declare the act in "flagrant disregard" of the council's appeal not to detonate a nuclear device, demand that North Korea not conduct any further test or launch any more ballistic missiles, and authorize a range of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
The draft would freeze the financial assets of and impose a travel ban on individuals and entities with any connection to North Korea's weapons or missile programs. It would also ban countries from selling luxury goods to North Korea.
Asked why, Bolton said, "I think the North Korean population has been losing average height and weight over the years and maybe this will be a little diet for Kim Jong Il," North Korea's leader.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, asked earlier whether Beijing was prepared to go along with the ban, said: "I don't know what luxury goods means, because luxury goods can mean many things for different people ... if they don't have it."
The latest draft resolution still invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which the US views as a necessary because it makes economic and diplomatic sanctions mandatory.
China and Russia normally object to the Chapter 7 provision because it carries the possibility of military enforcement. The Bush administration used the same provision to justify its invasion of Iraq, and Moscow and Beijing worry the US might do the same eventually with North Korea - even though Bush has said the US has no plans to attack.
But in a compromise also used in July to unanimously vote on a resolution condemning North Korean missile launches, the text added mention of Article 41 of the chapter, which permits only "means not involving the use of military force."
The resolution would rely on all countries to implement the sanctions, but it would create a committee comprising all 15 Security Council nations to monitor enforcement and report any violations to the council.
Rice's trip to China, South Korea and Japan is the next step in the US diplomatic offensive at the United Nations and with Pyongyang's neighbors. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said "she's going to be talking about the passage of that resolution certainly, but really what comes after."
The trip is meant to present a unified front to North Korea, which will be looking for any cracks in the diplomatic coalition behind the UN statement.
A Russian nuclear envoy who visited North Korea said Saturday he pressed the North to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said he had a "very useful" meeting Friday with Kim Gye Gwan, the North's nuclear negotiator, but didn't say how Kim responded. Alexeyev spoke on his arrival in Beijing from Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
Pyongyang has boycotted the six-nation talks for the past 13 months to protest financial measures imposed by Washington for alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering.