WASHINGTON—Japan asked the U.N. Security Council on Friday to ban international sales of North Korean missiles as part of a response to provocative missile tests by the reclusive Stalinist regime.
The ban was contained in a draft resolution that was tougher than a version that circulated immediately after North Korea fired seven missiles, including a long-range rocket that exploded after liftoff, in defiance of demands to desist. The United States, Britain and France—all permanent members of the Security Council—back the resolution.
The two other permanent members, Russia and China, are opposed. All five permanent members have veto power in the council.
The United States has pushed intensive diplomatic efforts, including calls by President Bush this week to President Hu Jintao of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, to try to gain support for a united response.
"It's best for all of us to go to the U.N. Security Council and say loud and clear, `Here are some red lines.' And that's what we're in the process of doing," Bush said during a news conference in Chicago. "What matters most of all is for (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il to see the world speak with one voice."
U.S. envoy Christopher Hill held talks in Beijing with Chinese officials. While they agreed to cooperate in preserving regional stability, Hill failed to persuade his counterparts to support the resolution.
Hill "hasn't gained much out there other than to get everyone on the same page of condemning the launches," said a U.S. official who closely follows North Korea and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy.
North Korea launched six short- and medium-range missiles and a long-range Taepodong-2 missile over a 14-hour period beginning Tuesday afternoon EDT.
The six short- and medium-range rockets splashed harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, and the Taepodong-2, believed capable of reaching U.S. territory with a light payload, exploded about 40 seconds after liftoff.
The draft resolution's proposed ban of purchases of North Korean missiles or missile-related technology by other countries was aimed at shutting off one of the regime's major sources of hard currency.
The measure condemned North Korea for the firings, declared them and future launches "a threat to international peace and security" and directed Pyongyang to resume a self-declared 1999 moratorium on missile tests, according to a copy obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.
It also directed U.N. members to "take those steps necessary" to prevent missiles and related technology and materials from reaching North Korea and to block financial transfers to any entities involved in its missile or nuclear weapons programs.
Finally, the draft resolution strongly urged Pyongyang to "immediately return" to six-nation talks on eliminating its nuclear weapons program. Those talks have been stalled since November.
China's envoy, Wang Guangya, said his government wanted a non-binding statement of condemnation containing no sanctions.
"If this resolution is put to a vote, definitely there will be no unity in the Security Council," he said, suggesting that China would abstain or veto it.
China, North Korea's only ally, opposes any actions that could destabilize the divided Korean peninsula or the North Korean government.
U.S. officials hoped that China and Russia, which also favors a non-binding statement, would abstain when the resolution is put to a vote.
Japan's ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, said his government wanted a vote as quickly as possible.
A second U.S. official, who sought anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said the United States was trying to persuade Japan not to call for an immediate vote in order to allow more diplomacy, including talks that a senior Chinese official is scheduled to hold in Pyongyang next week.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration was refining a number of punitive measures it could take unilaterally, including pressuring foreign banks that deal with North Korea to stop doing so, said five U.S. officials, who requested anonymity. Two of them said Hill was discussing coordinating this effort with China, Japan and South Korea.
Washington applied such pressure to a bank in Macau, forcing it in February to freeze North Korean accounts containing millions of dollars. U.S. officials charged that the funds were from missile sales, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency and drug trafficking.
South Korea announced Friday that it was suspending indefinitely hundreds of thousands of tons of food and fertilizer shipments to North Korea.
At the same time, Seoul decided to proceed with previously scheduled Cabinet-level talks with North Korea next week.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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