U.N. Votes To Impose Sanctions On N. Korea

By Colum Lynch and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 15, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 14 -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to condemn North Korea and impose stiff sanctions on the communist government in response to its suspected nuclear test.

North Korea's ambassador immediately rejected the council's demand to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and threatened to respond to the escalating pressure on the reclusive government with unspecified "physical countermeasures."

The 15-nation council's action highlighted the outrage that followed North Korea's claim of having tested a nuclear bomb Oct. 9. It also marked a rare willingness by North's Korea council allies, China and Russia, to impose sanctions on Pyongyang.

But to secure their support, the United States was compelled to water down key measures designed to ensure that the sanctions could be enforced. And China -- which shares an 880-mile border with North Korea -- said after the vote that it would ignore a critical provision, which calls on governments to inspect goods entering or leaving North Korea.

Still, President Bush issued a statement welcoming the decision, saying that the United Nations has sent a clear message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that the world is "united in our opposition to his nuclear weapons plans."

"There's a better way forward for the people of North Korea," Bush said. "If the leader of North Korea were to verifiably end his weapons programs, the United States and other nations would be willing to help the nation recover economically."

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meanwhile, warned that the United States would pursue additional penalties against North Korea if it fails to abide by the council's demand that it agree to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

Resolution 1718 bans North Korean trade in materials linked to its weapons of mass destruction program, ballistic missiles, high-end conventional weapons -- including war planes and battle tanks -- and luxury goods.

It will create a U.N. committee to monitor the sanctions' effectiveness and to draw up a list of individuals and institutions linked to North Korea's weapons programs. They will be prohibited from traveling abroad, and most of their financial assets will be frozen.

But the resolution stops far short of imposing the kind of sweeping trade embargo initially proposed by Japan. It no longer contains a U.S.-proposed provision to give North Korea 30 days to suspend its nuclear program or face "further action."

The text also provides no additional authority to allow inspections of North Korean vessels suspected of transporting illicit weapons. The United States claims that it already possesses that power, but China maintains that such actions violate international law.

Addressing the council chamber in English, North Korean U.N. ambassador Pak Gil Yon told the council that his government "totally rejects" the council's "unjustifiable" resolution. He said it was "gangster like" for the council to impose such "coercive" measures. He walked out of the U.N. chamber before the session ended.

After Pak's speech, Bolton directed the council's attention to the North Korean diplomat's empty chair and suggested that his right to address the council be suspended.

"That is the second time in three months that the representative of the DPRK [The Democratic Republic of Korea], having asked to participate in our meetings, has rejected a unanimous resolution of the Security Council and walked out of this chamber," Bolton said. "It's the contemporary equivalent of Nikita Khrushchev's pounding his shoe on the desk of the General Assembly."

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, took offense at the reference to the former Soviet leader. He appealed to council president Kenzo Oshima of Japan "to use your influence" to discourage the use of such an "inappropriate analogy."

U.S. officials believe the resolution will give them the international tools to put the squeeze on North Korea. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Japan, South Korea and China later this week to discuss the implementation of the resolution as well as possible actions that could be taken by countries to punish Pyongyang, U.S. officials said.

The Japanese government, the closest ally of the United States on the North Korean issue, has already imposed sweeping economic sanctions on North Korea in response to the nuclear test. Rice will try to persuade South Korea and China -- which have deep economic ties with North Korea and have supported the country even during the nuclear impasse -- to also tighten the vise, officials said.

"There is such a political backlash against North Korea that people are more willing to consider unilateral actions," said a senior State Department official. "The net effect is that the North Koreans find themselves in a substantially different place," even with China.

China is critical to the success of Security Council provisions calling for restrictions on North Korea's trade in illicit items, because most of Pyongyang's trade crosses the Chinese border. China, however, may be resistant to suggestions that it cut off or reduce North Korea's economic lifeline because it has long valued the stability of having North Korea as a buffer state between China's border and South Korea, which has 25,000 U.S. troops.

For the moment, U.S. officials are focused on implementing this resolution and are not contemplating more resolutions, officials said. When President Bush travels to Hanoi next month for an Asian economic summit, there is the possibility that Bush and the leaders from China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and possibly other countries will meet on North Korea and "take stock" of the resolution's effectiveness.

U.S. officials are also exploring whether the six-nation negotiating group that has focused on North Korea can form the basis for a new security organization akin to NATO or other regional forums. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, the administration's point man on North Korea, noted that unlike Europe, Asia has no such institutions.

The administration believes "we can move beyond just the peace in the Korean peninsula," Hill said in a speech Friday, "but also toward creating some multilateral structures that will allow Northeast Asia not only to be the economic juggernaut that Southeast Asia is . . . but also Northeast Asia that can also be exporting peace and a sense of how to get along."

Kessler reported from Washington.

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