U.N. Fails to Agree on North Korea

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS – Facing the latest North Korean provocation, a divided U.N. Security Council yesterday failed to agree on a Japanese proposed resolution that would declare Pyongyang’s missile launches illegal and impose sanctions on the rogue communist country.

On a day the North Korean regime tested seven mid- and long-range missiles in less than 24 hours, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said that instead of a resolution creating a legal framework to put pressure on Pyongyang, his country would prefer a nonbinding statement.

A “strong and clear signal,” he said, could be made by a statement like the one the council issued in 1998, the last time North Korea shocked its neighbors by testing long-range missiles. That statement, lamenting the harm caused by Pyongyang’s saber-rattling to the region’s fishermen, held the North Koreans at bay for nearly a decade, he said.

Japan proposed a council resolution yesterday telling North Korea to “immediately cease” its missile program. All member states “shall prevent” anyone from contributing to Pyongyang’s “WMD programs,” a draft of the proposal stated.

The Bush administration backs the Japanese proposal, as do Britain and France. “If it was the desire of Kim Jong Il to turn this into a two-party negotiation or standoff between the United States and North Korea, he blew it,” the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, said yesterday.

The administration’s point man on North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, left for the region last night, telling the Associated Press, “We have a lot of support in a lot of places.” He added that the Security Council would probably adopt “some kind of resolution,” the AP reported.

But Russia yesterday joined China, North Korea’s strongest ally, in opposing the Japanese proposal, splitting the leading powers on the 15-member council along familiar lines. Both China and Russia can veto any council resolution.

“I would caution you against whipping up emotions too much,” Mr. Churkin told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Security Council. “If a press statement had results for eight years, I wouldn’t disregard it lightly,” he said, referring to the September 1998 nonbinding statement by the president of the council, which followed North Korea’s test of an earlier Taepodong missile.

In that statement, the members of the council authorized the president to say the North Korean testing posed “harm to the fishing and shipping activities in the region,” and to appeal to Pyongyang to “refrain from such activities,” according to a Reuters report from that time.

President Bush told reporters yesterday that he viewed the newest test “as an opportunity to remind the international community that we must work together to continue to work hard to convince the North Korean leader to give up any weapons program.” The North Koreans “agreed to do that in the past and we will hold them to account,” he said.

On the Fourth of July and yesterday, North Korea tested seven mid-range and long-range missiles, showing that the regime, which also is said to have several nuclear bombs, has not dropped its long-range missile program. The long-range Taepodong-2 tested Tuesday crashed just 42 seconds after it was launched.

“One thing we have learned is that the rocket didn’t stay up for very long,” Mr. Bush said. “It doesn’t diminish my desire to solve this problem.”

Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kenzo Oshima, immediately called for an emergency council session yesterday. In 1998, the then-Japanese ambassador, Hisashi Owada, said Tokyo had “no intention whatsoever to take any confrontational position” on North Korea.

But now a bolder Japan is a member of the council. Its new proposal, under the enforceable Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, would turn past Pyongyang commitments to cease testing into international law. The council would instruct North Korea to “immediately cease the development, testing, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles and reconfirm its moratorium on missile launching,” the Japanese draft proposal states.

It also would have member states decide to “prevent the transfer of financial resources, items, materials, goods and technology to end users that could contribute to [North Korea’s] missile and other WMD programs.”

America, meanwhile, also relies on means beyond council resolutions. “What North Korea did yesterday shows the wisdom and leadership that President Bush displayed in 2001,” American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told reporters yesterday. He was alluding to Washington’s defiance of the ABM treaty, deploying “an effective limited missile defense system to guard against attacks from rogue states and accidental launches.”

The Bush administration has been “on the right course clearly for the last six years,” Mr. Bolton, an avid supporter of missile defense, said.

[The Associated Press reported yesterday that major South Korean newspapers have reported that North Korea has at least three more missiles on launch pads and ready for firing.]

The New York Sun

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