U.S., Allies Seek Punitive Action Against N. Korea
Thursday, July 6, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- The United States and its allies on Wednesday sought to impose punitive measures on North Korea for launching a series of seven missiles on Tuesday, but emphasized that diplomatic measures with the communist nation should not be abandoned.
U.S., British and Japanese officials attempted to increase pressure on North Korea through the United Nations, presenting the Security Council with the draft of a legally binding resolution demanding that the North Korean government immediately cease the development, deployment, testing and proliferation of ballistic missiles. Separately, Japan imposed limited economic sanctions on the North, including a measure prohibiting its officials, ship crews and chartered flights from entering Japan.
While Bush administration officials condemned the test-firing of the missiles on Tuesday, they played down the missiles' military importance. The one with the longest range, believed capable of reaching Alaska and possibly the U.S. West Coast, failed less than a minute after launch and fell into the Sea of Japan.
President Bush appeared to temper his response Wednesday in comments after an Oval Office meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia. "One thing we have learned is that the rocket didn't stay up very long and tumbled into the sea, which doesn't, frankly, diminish my desire to solve this problem," he said.
"There are attempts to try to describe this almost in breathless, World War III terms," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "This is not such a situation. This is a situation in which people are working with a regime in North Korea, trying to reason with a dictator, to step back from provocative activities."
[On Thursday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement confirming for the first time that it had test-fired missiles, calling the launch successful and part of a "routine" military exercise that was "aimed at reinforcing our self-defense capabilities."]
North Korea's two main benefactors -- China and South Korea -- as well as Russia had a somewhat muted response to the missile tests.
"We hope that all the relevant sides can remain calm and restrained and do more things which are conducive to peace and stability," Liu Jianchao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement.
China and Russia, two of the five countries on the Security Council with veto power, expressed concern that the imposition of punitive measures could derail efforts to restart stalled six-nation talks with North Korea to suspend its nuclear program. They said that it would be more appropriate to respond to North Korea's tests with a statement of concern from the president of the Security Council. Presidential statements carry less political force than a resolution because they are not legally binding.
Several observers warned that even if Beijing agreed to some form of censure, it would remain reluctant to impose tough economic sanctions out of fear that such measures could destabilize North Korea and spark a crisis on their shared border.
"I don't think China will take at this moment stronger political or economic action against North Korea," said Chu Shulong, a political science professor at Tsinghua University and expert in international security. "We Chinese believe basically, fundamentally it is not our problem, the missile launch problem. It's a problem between North Korea and the U.S., it's a problem between the DPRK and Japan, it might be a problem between North Korea and South Korea. But basically it's not a China problem." DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
The draft U.N. resolution, which was formally introduced by Japan, would also require states to prevent the transfer of money, material or technology that could "contribute" to Pyongyang's ballistic missile program or advance its capacity to develop nuclear explosives or other weapons of mass destruction. And it "strongly urges" North Korea to resume the six-party talks with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.