UNITED NATIONS, October 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The diplomatic battle between North Korea and the United States triggered by Pyongyang's announcement that it has tested a nuclear weapon continues to escalate.
Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's second-highest ranking official, on October 11 raised the prospect of further tests, telling a visiting Japanese delegation that "the issue of future nuclear tests is linked to U.S. policy toward our country."
Washington, meanwhile, is trying to persuade the UN Security Council to pass a tough resolution imposing sanctions on Pyongyang. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on October 10 that Washington wants to block Pyongyang's international access to anything – "know-how, technology, or material" -- that could contribute to its missile or nuclear weapons programs:
He said sanctions should also eliminate Pyongyang's ability to get money for its programs through "any sort of illicit activity, counterfeiting, money laundering, or trade or facilitation of trade in narcotics."
There is consensus at the UN Security Council that Pyongyang should be punished for carrying out a nuclear test.
But it is not clear whether China and Russia are prepared to go as far as Washington with punitive measures.
China is North Korea's main trading partner and Russia, to a lesser extent, also has political and trade ties with Pyongyang.
Washington is circulating a 13-point draft resolution at the Security Council that would put its proposed sanctions against Pyongyang under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. That would make the sanctions ultimately enforceable by military means.
China's ambassador to the UN on October 10 called "many of the elements" in the proposal "good," but reiterated Beijing's reluctance to open the door to the use of force.
Wang Guangya said Beijing will make a "firm, constructive, appropriate, but prudent response to North Korea's nuclear test."
Wang emphasized, however, that any punishment must be "appropriate."
Russia's Foreign Ministry has said it is "ready to take part in joint efforts of the interested parties to arrive at a peaceful, diplomatic settlement of the situation."
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said on October 10 that "the thrust" of comments made Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, was "supportive and ... gave a good indication that we're continuing to move ahead."
Both Beijing and Moscow say they want Pyongyang to disarm, but fear for regional stability if the crisis is not solved through negotiations.
It remains hard to predict when the UN Security Council may arrive at a unified position.
Emyr Jones-Parry, Britain's ambassador to the UN, said on October 10 that none of the ambassadors of the five permanent member states of the Security Council expect a final draft to be adopted on October 11, but that things are moving at a "good pace" and that "substantial progress" is being made.
Meanwhile, mystery remains around the exact nature of the explosion registered in North Korea on October 9.
U.S. State Department spokesman McCormack told reporters that Washington is still waiting for intelligence agencies to conclude whether the "seismic event" registered in North Korea was a nuclear test, adding that "regardless, the international community is going to take this as a very serious matter."
France said on October 11 that the explosion was so small that if it was indeed nuclear in nature, it was a failure.