Rice Trip to Push Full Sanctions for N. Korea

By Glenn Kessler and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will push for full implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea as punishment for its recent nuclear test when she makes a critical visit to Asia and Russia this week.

The sanctions prohibit trade with North Korea in illicit materials, weapons and luxury items.

"Every country in the region must share the burdens as well as the benefits of our common security," Rice said in comments aimed at China and South Korea, Pyongyang's two largest trading partners. She called on nations to "collectively isolate" North Korea, adding that it "cannot destabilize the international system and then expect to exploit elaborate financial networks built for peaceful commerce."

Rice also warned Iran -- which faces possible U.N. sanctions over its nascent nuclear enrichment program -- that the Security Council will begin work on a resolution condemning Tehran for not suspending that effort. Iran "can now see that the international community will respond to threats from nuclear proliferation."

Rice, who departs today, held a news conference on her trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Russia a few hours after the head of U.S. intelligence agencies announced that analysts had confirmed North Korea's nuclear test through radiation samples detected in the air two days after the blast.

A two-sentence statement released by Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said an analysis of radioactive debris "confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of P'unggye on October 9, 2006. The explosion yield was less than a kiloton."

The extremely small yield surprised U.S. nuclear scientists and intelligence analysts, who had expected a large explosion typical of a first test. The U.S. military dropped a bomb of 20 to 23 kilotons on Nagasaki, Japan, more than 60 years ago.

Although the radiation samples confirm the nuclear test, officials at the CIA, the Department of Energy and national nuclear laboratories are still trying to determine the cause of the low yield. The prevailing theory is that North Korea managed to implode only a fraction of the plutonium during the test.

If the test was less successful than the North Koreans hoped, U.S. analysts believe they will conduct another to determine what went wrong. Officials said they will use satellite imagery and communications intercepts to detect signs of a new test.

The Associated Press reported that South Korea and Japan are monitoring unconfirmed reports of possible preparations by North Korea for a second nuclear test. Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said Tokyo is working with other governments to figure out North Korea's intentions.

Some scientists and weapons designers are beginning to wonder whether North Korea tested a sophisticated, miniaturized device.

North Korea's nuclear arsenal is believed by U.S. intelligence to have grown significantly during President Bush's tenure, but little is known about the exact design of the device that Pyongyang may have built. U.S. intelligence has judged, however, that North Korea could be as long as 10 years away from being able to marry a nuclear warhead to a missile delivery system.

Rice told reporters that on her trip she will reassure Japan and South Korea that "the United States has both the will and capability to meet the full range of our security and deterrent commitments." That is a diplomatic way of saying that the U.S. nuclear umbrella will make it unnecessary for those nations to consider developing their own nuclear weapons.

Although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has flatly rejected building a nuclear arsenal, the country's ruling party policy chief said Sunday that it is necessary to have a debate over whether Japan should obtain the bomb. U.S. officials are privately concerned that if North Korea is not restrained, Japan in particular might rethink its position on nuclear weapons.

Despite Rice's public warning to Iran yesterday, several U.S. and European diplomats concluded privately that any Security Council resolution on Iran would need to be toned down as a result of the action on North Korea over the weekend.

"The DPRK resolution set a standard that the Iranian resolution will be set against, and since Iran hasn't set off a nuclear device, it'll be quite hard to get away with a tougher one than we got on North Korea," said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities. "In any case, Iran just isn't North Korea."

"Iran has really been on the backburner for the last two weeks," said another U.S. government official whose work focuses on Iranian nuclear issues. "Although the secretary said we can walk and chew gum at the same time, in reality we are only taking baby steps and chewing half a piece of gum."

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