U.N. Council Urges N. Korea Not to Conduct Nuclear Test

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 7, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 6 -- The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Friday expressing "deep concern" about North Korea's threat to conduct its first test of a nuclear explosive, saying it would "jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond."

The action came as U.S. officials look toward Sunday as a possible date for North Korea to carry out the test. Oct. 8 is the ninth anniversary of Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party, and is only a day before South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon will face a vote on his bid to become the next secretary general of the United Nations.

The 15-nation council urged North Korea to resume multiparty talks over its nuclear program, warning that a nuclear test "would bring universal condemnation." The council also issued a veiled threat to weigh tougher action, including the possibility of sanctions, against Pyongyang it if proceeds with the test.

The nonbinding statement capped three days of intensive negotiation after North Korea's announcement Tuesday that it plans to test a nuclear device to strengthen its defenses against the United States.

The Bush administration expressed frustration that the council was not prepared to adopt an even tougher response spelling out the punitive actions to be imposed on North Korea if it conducts a test. "At this point, no, I don't think there's a strategy of preventive diplomacy in place," said John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Still, Bolton and Kenzo Oshima, Japan's ambassador, said the statement will be helpful to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is expected to advocate a tougher response to North Korea's nuclear program in visits to Beijing on Sunday and Seoul on Monday.

China and Russia have urged the United States and other members of the council to pursue only diplomatic means to end the nuclear standoff with North Korea. Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said he spoke with Bolton on Friday about the need for the United States to engage in direct talks with North Korea.

But Churkin said Bolton insisted that the United States would sit down with North Korean officials only if they resumed multiparty talks on the nuclear program. "We think that bilateral contacts between the United States and North Korea could be useful in resolving the situation," Churkin said.

In an effort to persuade Pyongyang to back down, Bush administration officials have issued a number of stern warnings that the United States will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said on Friday that the United States has also encouraged China and others "that have influence on North Korea to use it to convince them to turn away from this."

"I'd leave it up to the Chinese as to what the best way for them to exert their influence on the North Korean government is -- but, certainly, we want to see them and everyone else do whatever they can to prevent this from happening," he added.

U.S. officials suspect North Korea has acquired enough plutonium to produce as many as 11 nuclear bombs. In February, Pyongyang announced that it had succeeded in building a nuclear device, but analysts estimate that it could be years before North Korea is able to launch it.

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