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UN: Security Council Split On Response To North Korea Missile Tests

  • Nikola Krastev --> The UN Security Council in session (file photo) (CTK) The United Nations Security Council on July 5 was united in its condemnation of North Korea's missile launches, but a division emerged over the issue of how to censure Pyongyang. Thirteen of the 15 Security Council members -- including the permanent seat holders Britain, France, and the United States -- favor a resolution that is a strong warning leading to sanctions. The two remaining permanent members, China and Russia, are leaning toward issuing a "presidential statement," a less serious, nonbinding warning that must be approved unanimously.

UNITED NATIONS, July 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- During the closed meeting requested by Japan and the United States, all the members of the UN Security Council expressed “deep concern” over the July 5 missile launches by North Korea.

A Japanese-authored draft resolution is believed to call on North Korea immediately to cease the development, testing, deployment, and proliferation of ballistic missiles and to reconfirm its moratorium on missile launching.

U.S. Calls For 'Strong And Unanimous Signal'

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, expressed a stronger view, reportedly supported by Britain and France.

"This is obviously a very serious matter because of the North Korean provocation, but this is precisely what the Security Council is designed to handle, and we hope the council will rise to the occasion," Bolton said. "We think we can proceed in a calm and deliberate fashion, but we hope we have a strong and unanimous signal from the council that this kind of behavior is unacceptable."

Later in the day, U.S. President George W. Bush had a subdued public reaction to the tests and did not use the strong language he used one week ago when he said that a missile launch would be unacceptable. After a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Bush reiterated his desire to address the problem through multilateral, rather than direct, talks with the reclusive regime.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said intense diplomatic efforts were already under way.

"We're working with our allies to figure out how to try to get North Korea back to the table, back to the six-party talks, and to figure out some way to establish their credibility so we can move forward," Snow said.

Russia Urges 'A Balance Approach'

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, expressed Moscow’s concern over the launches and cited reports that some missile fragments had fallen very close to Russian territory. Nevertheless, Churkin said he believes a balanced approach is the most efficient way to deal with the unpredictable Pyongyang.

"We should also keep our goal in mind, and in that sense I would caution you against whipping up the emotions too much," Churkin said. "I think we should be clear-headed in this situation and we should keep in mind the fact that the goal should be the resumption of the six-party talks and the ultimate diplomatic solution to this situation."

Speaking to reporters after the council's emergency session, Churkin flatly ruled out the possibility of sanctions at this point.

Japan Says Situation Worse Than In 1998

Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshima also spoke outside the Security Council chamber, saying that Tokyo is gravely concerned over North Korea’s current missile activities.

Oshima noted that in 1998 a North Korean missile flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the Sea of Japan.

That launch, he said, pales in comparison with this week's seven launches by Pyongyang.

"Subsequent to 1998, the DPRK withdrew -- announced its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- and then subsequently declared its intention to possess nuclear weapons," Oshima said. "So the combination, the possible combination, of nuclear weapons with missile development and testing brings this matter to a much more different level."

Emyr Jones Parry, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said the council's unanimous expression of disapproval over North Korea’s actions should translate into a quick and strong resolution.

"All members of the council expressed clear concern about what happened," Jones Parry said. "There is a strong view that we should respond quickly, that we should preferably retain a united council and that we should be robust in what we say."

The so-called six-party talks aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear aspirations involve China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the United States, and North Korea.

The talks have been suspended since November, when the United States demanded that a bank in Macau freeze North Korean funds supposedly being used for illegal activities, including counterfeiting.