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US softens draft resolution against N. Korea

October 13, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 12: The United States circulated a draft resolution on North Korea at the UN Security Council that softens language on cargo inspection and financial sanctions in a move aimed at addressing Russian and Chinese opposition.

The draft does not include Japanese demands to bar North Korean ships and aircraft from ports and airports around the world in response to North Korea’s claimed nuclear test. That proposal would likely face strong opposition by Russia and China, which have veto power.

The latest US proposal also drops a call to freeze assets from other ‘illicit activities such as those related to counterfeiting, money-laundering or narcotics’.

Diplomats here told Dawn that ‘although US and its allies, Britain, France and Japan, would like the Security Council to adopt the resolution by Friday, it is unlikely that will happen’. Most anticipate Chinese and Russian resistance to sanctions under Chapter 7.

The new US draft still invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which among other provisions authorises military action as an eventuality, and determines that North Korea’s actions are a threat to international peace and security.

The draft comes amid growing speculation that North Korea’s test on Monday was not successful.

On Wednesday, President George Bush said he was working with other states to ensure ‘serious repercussions’ for Pyongyang, while Japan announced its own new bilateral sanctions.

And North Korea held out the threat of more tests, saying US pressure to rein in its nuclear programme would be tantamount to a ‘declaration of war’.

The draft resolution also calls for an arms embargo, a ban on any transfer or development of weapons of mass destruction as well as a ban on export of luxury goods.

It proposes a freeze on funds overseas of people or businesses connected with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. And it adds a proposal by Japan that would allow, but not require, states to bar the entry of individuals and their families connected or supporting the North’s polices on weapons of mass destruction.

Agencies add: China and Russia on Thursday cast doubt on the chances for a quick vote on the US-drafted resolution.

“I think that of course people are talking about a possible vote tomorrow, but I’m not sure,” China’s UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said. “There are many common grounds that members agree. But there are some disagreements.”

Asked about a Friday vote, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “I don’t think so” and indicated one should wait for results of the latest flurry of diplomatic activity.

“We think there should be a strong reaction but a cool- headed reaction,” Churkin said.

He pointed to diplomatic meetings in Asia and in the United States and Russia. Tang Jiaxuan, a Chinese state councilor and former foreign minister, met President George Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the White House on Thursday and then was scheduled to travel on to Moscow.

Beijing has agreed to punitive measures against its Communist ally. But it says encouraging a peaceful resolution, not punishment, should not be the focus

China’s Wang urged caution, saying that the council should take “firm, forceful and also appropriate” action.

“By appropriate I mean it should reflect the feelings of the international community,” Wang said. “But more important it should be helpful for leading to a solution of this issue by peaceful means and it should also create conditions for the parties to once again engage in negotiations.”