By Colum Lynch and Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 11, 2009
UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- The United States, China and other major powers reached agreement Wednesday on a draft U.N. resolution that condemns North Korea's recent underground nuclear test and imposes additional military, financial and trade sanctions on the communist state. The draft was presented to the full, 15-nation Security Council for consideration and could be adopted as early as Friday.
The agreement followed weeks of intensive, closed-door negotiations among the Security Council's permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- plus Japan and South Korea.
Going into the talks, one of the key questions was whether China and Russia, North Korea's longtime allies, would join the United States and other Western powers in backing tough new measures to punish the Pyongyang government for its May 25 nuclear detonation and a flurry of ballistic missile tests.
Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Wednesday that his government shares the "frustration" of the United States and other powers over North Korea's actions, which "pose some real proliferation risks." But he said the text is carefully worded to exclude military action and to leave the door open to political talks.
Still, the resolution, if passed, would represent an escalation of the United Nations' efforts to restrain North Korea. It would sharply restrict Pyongyang's access to international grants, financial assistance and low-interest loans. It would also reinvigorate efforts to enforce a range of sanctions imposed on North Korea after its first nuclear test in October 2006.
The text calls for U.N. member states to inspect all shipments entering or leaving North Korea if there is a reasonable suspicion that the cargo contains banned nuclear or missile technology. It also authorizes member nations, for the first time, to search ships suspected of carrying banned materials on the high seas and to seize any contraband found.
The draft, however, includes important caveats, such as the need for the flag state -- the country in which a ship is registered -- to approve the searches. U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice and other U.N. diplomats said that if the flag state does not allow inspection on the high seas, it would be required to direct the ship to a nearby port for a search.
Rice also said the draft resolution would strengthen existing sanctions against North Korea in "five critical areas," including a comprehensive ban on arms exports by the country, while permitting the import of only light weapons and small arms.
The resolution's adoption would send a message to North Korea that its "behavior is unacceptable" and that it "must pay a price," Rice said, adding that the resolution "will bite."
But her predecessor, John R. Bolton, who represented the Bush administration at the United Nations, said the draft marked only a "modest" strengthening of sanctions he had helped negotiate three years ago. He said that it is unlikely that North Korea will allow its vessels to be searched on the high seas and that the resolution contains no provision to use force to compel North Korean ships to dock in a foreign port.
Hours before the deal was struck, Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. envoy for North Korea disarmament talks, provided public assurances that the United States has "no intention to invade North Korea or change its regime through force." Bosworth also said that Pyongyang will remain a global pariah if it persists in provoking the international community.
"They can stay in the darkness of the cave and see the world only as shadows," he said in an address at the Asia Society in New York. "Or they can come out into the light of the international community."
Because of the Pyongyang government's secretiveness, its motives for the recent nuclear and missile tests are a matter of speculation. But the top defense official in South Korea told troops this week that North Korea has been whipping up global tension so that its ailing leader, Kim Jong Il, can create conditions for a "hereditary power transfer."
Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee's remarks were the clearest signal so far that South Korea views the North's recent belligerence as part of an unfolding succession drama, as Kim, who is 67 and suffered a stroke last summer, lays the groundwork for handing power to his third son, Kim Jong Un, who is 26.
Many analysts say that by fomenting confrontation and demonstrating military prowess, the elder Kim is trying to distract North Koreans from their collapsed economy and to make a security-based case for giving power to his youngest son.
Lee did not mention the son by name, but South Korea's intelligence agency told lawmakers last week that Jong Un, who attended a private school in Switzerland as a teenager, was his father's choice to take over the dynasty that has run the North for 61 years.
In a brief and surprisingly amiable interview this week on Japanese television, the eldest son of Kim Jong Il said his youngest brother appears to have been given the leadership nod.
Kim Jong Nam, 38, was asked by a reporter from Nippon TV whether Kim Jong Un would be the successor.
"I think so," the elder brother said during Saturday's interview, conducted on a street in Macau, where he often travels, apparently without security guards. "I hear this news on the media. I can't confirm, and I can't say no."
As the eldest son, Kim Jong Nam had been viewed for years as the likely successor. But he apparently botched his chances in 2001, when he embarrassed his father by getting caught as he tried to enter Japan on a phony passport. He told Japanese officials he wanted to visit Disneyland in Tokyo.
He said during the interview that he has no chance in the future to be leader of North Korea. "By the way, I think I am a lucky person," he added.
The reporter asked him whether his youngest brother looked like their father.
"I think so," Kim Jong Nam replied. "My father likes my brother very much."
Harden reported from Tokyo. Special correspondent Stella Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.