UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States met resistance from China on Wednesday as it stepped up efforts for a U.N. vote by the end of the week on tough sanctions against North Korea for its reported nuclear test.
President George W. Bush said he was working with other states to ensure “serious repercussions” for Pyongyang, while Japan announced its own new bilateral sanctions.
The reclusive Communist state held out the threat of more tests and its KCNA news agency, known for blustering anti-U.S. rhetoric, said pressure from Washington to rein in its nuclear program would be tantamount to a “declaration of war.”
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton intends to circulate a revised text of planned sanctions on Thursday in hopes for a vote on Friday. But he acknowledged “there were a number of disagreements.”
Japan’s U.N. ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, this month’s council president, said China was willing to impose some punitive measures, “but in our view we would have to ask them to make further efforts.”
Beijing has huge influence on Pyongyang as its most important political and economic ally. In the past it has opposed sanctions but agreed to some punitive measures if they were narrowly focused on dangerous weapons.
One controversial provision in the U.S.-drafted resolution, was authorization for international inspections of cargo moving in and out of North Korea to detect weapons-related material. Diplomats said China had rejected that and it is not certain if this provision is in Bolton’s new, revised text.
The U.S. draft also calls for an arms embargo, a freeze on any transfer or development of weapons of mass destruction and a ban on luxury goods. It would also impose financial sanctions targeted at ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
The new bilateral sanctions announced by Japan, underpinning those imposed after Pyongyang test-fired missiles in July, included barring all North Korean ships from Japanese ports and banning imports.
The new U.S. draft still invokes Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, and determines that North Korea’s actions are a threat to international peace and security, diplomats said.
Chinese U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Beijing wanted to restrict the reference to Chapter 7 to Article 41, which would authorize only a narrow list of sanctions to ensure no military action could be inferred.
In Washington, Bush told a news conference he saw a new consensus emerging among the world’s major powers that it was vital to act now. China and Russia, North Korea’s main trading partners, have been more tolerant of Pyongyang in the past.
“In response to North Korea’s actions, we’re working with our partners in the region and the United Nations Security Council to ensure there are serious repercussions for the regime in Pyongyang,” Bush said.
“The world has made it clear that these tests caused us to come together and work in the United Nations to send a clear message to the North Korean regime,” he said.
Bush said he was committed to diplomacy and repeated assurances the United States had no intention of attacking North Korea. But he rejected demands he engage directly with North Korea on a bilateral basis, as Pyongyang wants, saying that approach had failed in the past.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged such bilateral talks on Wednesday, telling reporters, “I’ve always argued that we should talk to parties whose behavior we want to change, whose behavior we want to influence.”
In the capital of North Korea, a tightly regimented country with a 1.2 million-strong army, the country’s No. 2 leader said whether Pyongyang conducted more tests depended on Washington.
“The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to U.S. policy toward our country,” Kyodo news agency quoted Kim Yong-nam as saying in a meeting with a Kyodo delegation.
Pyongyang’s KCNA news agency was characteristically dramatic in its portrayal of the situation. Its foreign ministry statement was sent to the U.N. Security Council.
“If the U.S. increases pressure upon the DPRK (North Korea), persistently doing harm to it, it will continue to take physical countermeasures, considering it as a declaration of a war,” it quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying. It said North Korea was ready for both dialogue and confrontation.
Experts have been unable so far to confirm the earth tremor detected on Monday was indeed a nuclear test, as announced by North Korea.
Amid the talk of sanctions, Human Rights Watch urged that emergency food aid to the impoverished country be continued, saying millions of ordinary citizens could be at risk of hunger and starvation.