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(photo credit: AP)
The United States on Thursday began pushing for a new UN resolution that adds a travel ban on North Korea, while South Korea said it detected no abnormal levels of radioactivity after the North's claimed nuclear test.
Despite the uncertainty over the proclaimed test, the US began lobbying for a new draft UN resolution that it hopes the UN Security Council will pass on Friday.
The draft, obtained by The Associated Press late Wednesday, adds a travel ban for North Korea. However, the proposal uses softer language on cargo inspections and financial sanctions to try to get Russian and Chinese support.
The draft also doesn't include Japanese demands to prohibit North Korean ships from entering any port or North Korean aircraft from taking off or landing in any country. The proposals would likely face strong Russian and Chinese opposition.
Washington wants the UN resolution to condemn the declared test, demand that North Korea immediately return to six-party talks without precondition, and impose sanctions for Pyongyang's "flagrant disregard" of the council's appeal.
It will be crucial to get China's support for the UN resolution because Beijing is believed to have the most leverage with Pyongyang's enigmatic leadership. The Chinese provide up to 90 percent of North Korea's oil and 80 percent of its consumer goods. The impoverished nation relies on foreign donations to feed its 23 million people.
China agrees that North Korea should be punished, but Beijing wants sanctions to be limited primarily to the North's nuclear program.
North Korea has been demanding direct talks with America, but US President George W. Bush refused to agree to such a meeting in a TV news conference Wednesday from the White House. Bush argued that Pyongyang would be more likely to listen when facing the protests of many nations.
Bush added that the US was ready to defend its allies in the region, but that it would also try to use diplomacy to deal with North Korea.
"I believe the commander in chief must try all diplomatic measures before we commit our military," he said.
China is considered to have the most leverage with North Korea as its top provider of badly needed economic and energy aid. But both Beijing and Seoul worry a hard-line approach could destabilize the North and send refugees flooding over their borders.
"Peace on the Korean Peninsula requires that these nations send a clear message to Pyongyang that its actions will not be tolerated," Bush said.
The North's alleged atomic explosion on Monday sparked fears that radioactivity might have blown into South Korea, and scientists have been scrambling to spot any signs of fallout that would confirm the underground test.
"So far, we have not detected any abnormal level of radioactivity" in South Korea, said Han Seung-jae, an official at the government-affiliated Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety.
Han added that experts, who were analyzing air samples, were still unsure whether the North exploded a nuclear device or that the test succeed.
"There had been little chance of radioactivity being blown southward as the wind had been blowing toward north or east for the past few days," he said.
The country's Science and Technology Ministry concurred with the institute's findings.
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