United Nations, 10 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council has expressed concern about the situation in North Korea but has failed to adopt a formal statement condemning Pyongyang.
The council's president, Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Zinser, said after closed-door talks on 9 April that members had conveyed their concerns and that the council would continue to follow developments in North Korea. But he said there are no plans to hold further talks this month on the matter.
U.S. officials had sought a statement from the Council condemning North Korea for withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), restarting its reactor and preparing for reprocessing plutonium.
But China and Russia opposed such a move out of concern it would escalate the crisis. They have pressed for U.S.-North Korean talks to resolve the issue.
Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, said the emphasis now should be on bilateral talks, not council action: "Condemnations would not help, and whatever multilateral formats might be used would not produce a result without a direct dialogue between the United States and North Korea."
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov today said North Korea might ignore any decision reached by the UN on the issue. He made his comments after meeting in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-Kil.
Ivanov said North Korea should return to its nuclear nonproliferation obligations in exchange for a guarantee of security and no military attack. He is due to meet with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun before traveling to Japan tomorrow.
China's ambassador, Wang Yingfan, said after yesterday's Security Council meeting that he had stressed the need for political dialogue.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told reporters that yesterday's meeting was "acceptable" but that Washington will continue to press for a multilateral solution. He spelled out the steps Pyongyang must take to ease the crisis: "It is not just a matter of getting the North to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. North Korea must also accept a reliable verification regime. This would include cooperation, declarations, inspections and monitoring."
North Korean officials have said in the past they were open to these steps, based on bilateral agreements with Washington. Negroponte declined to respond to a reporter's question about whether the United States would accept inspections by experts outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
North Korea has rejected Washington's calls for a multilateral approach. Pointing to what it says is a threat from the United States, it is seeking face-to-face talks with the Washington leading to a nonaggression pact.
The UN's chief envoy on the North Korean issue, Maurice Strong, told reporters earlier this week that Pyongyang would eventually be receptive to a "multilateral element" in resolving the crisis.
Negroponte said the United States is engaged in active diplomacy with North Korea's neighbors. He said repeatedly that Washington is seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis: "We seek a diplomatic solution to this question, and I think the fact that we continue to seek such a solution means that we believe it's within -- we hope and believe -- it's within the realm of possibility."
It was announced yesterday that South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will meet U.S. President George W. Bush on 14 May to discuss North Korea.
Despite the lack of a formal statement, Security Council members have indicated a shared concern over North Korea's move to withdraw from the NPT, which officially takes effect today.
Zinser says his country is urging North Korea to rejoin the treaty: "Mexico deplores the decision of North Korea to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mexico calls on North Korea to rejoin the treaty and expects that this matter will be resolved by diplomatic means so that one day we can achieve a nonnuclear peninsula of Korea."
North Korea acceded to the NPT in 1985. That required it to agree on safeguards with the IAEA, the body responsible for verifying compliance with the treaty. But North Korea evicted inspectors in December amid charges that it had restarted its nuclear weapons program -- and the agency followed by referring the matter to the Security Council.