US to pursue N Korea sanctions despite China opposition

UNITED NATIONS - The United States has decided to push for a vote on North Korea by the end of the week despite opposition from China to some of the sanctions aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its reported nuclear weapons test.

One controversial provision in the US-drafted resolution, was authorisation for international inspections of cargo moving into and out of North Korea to detect weapons-related material.

China, diplomats said, had rejected it, but that provision is still in the text, circulated to the 15 Security Council members and obtained by Reuters.

Beijing has opposed sanctions in the past as a way to curb North Korea's nuclear program but China has agreed to some measures if they are narrowly focussed, following North Korea's announcement on Monday it had tested a nuclear weapon.

The draft still calls for an arms embargo, a freeze on any transfer or development of weapons of mass destruction and a ban on the sale of luxury goods to the reclusive, Communist state. And it would impose financial sanctions targeted at ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Many of the changes involve softening of some language and the draft does not set a date for a review of the sanctions or threaten further measures.

US Ambassador John Bolton, who acknowledged there were "a number of disagreements," intends to introduce a new draft resolution formally to the Security Council members on Thursday with the aim of calling a vote a day later.

Council members usually need at least 24 hours after a resolution is introduced to vote for its adoption.

The new US draft still invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, and says that the situation in North Korea and the test it claimed it conducted "constitutes a clear threat to international peace and security."

China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said Beijing wanted to restrict the reference to Chapter 7 to Article 41, which would authorise only non-military sanctions. Chapter 7 covers sanctions and even military force, providing it is specifically authorised by the Security Council.

But since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, many nations fear invoking Chapter 7 could open the way for force, even if the council has not authorised it.

"We think the fact that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test does amount to a clear threat to international peace and security and warrants action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter as well as a variety of strong measures," Bolton said.

In an effort to defuse the crisis, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Washington to hold bilateral talks with North Korea, which it refuses to do.

"The US and North Korea should talk," Annan said. "I've always argued that we should talk to parties whose behaviour we want to change, whose behaviour we want to influence."

- REUTERS

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