Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 4 News List

North Korea negotiations near a deal

TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS After difficult bargaining on North Korea, the US and Japan are closing in on a UN Security Council deal with China and Russia

AFP , UNITED NATIONS

The UN Security Council yesterday edged closer to a vote on a resolution chastising North Korea for its missile tests, with the US hinting that a watered-down text could be agreed on to overcome objections.

The draft resolution includes a reference to Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which can authorize sanctions or even the use of force.

China has made it clear it will veto any text that invokes Chapter Seven.

Speaking to reporters after closed-door Security Council consultations late on Friday, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the council president for this month, said the 15-member body would resume consultations on a revised draft resolution yesterday.

The compromise text "is ready to be put to a vote ... we hope for action tomorrow," Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said.

US Ambassador John Bolton said that even without a reference to Chapter Seven, the draft would still be legally binding. His comment appeared to indicate that the co-sponsors were prepared to drop the reference to mollify China.

"It is not required to have a binding resolution to use the word Chapter Seven," he said, adding that he had been instructed by his government to seek a vote yesterday.

A compromise text was thrashed out in day-long haggling involving ambassadors of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- as well as Japan.

The envoys were to hold a new round of informal consultations yesterday ahead of the meeting of the full council in the afternoon.

The new text seeks to reconcile two proposals -- a tough Japanese draft, co-sponsored by the US and European allies, and a milder one championed by China and Russia.

It was presented by Japan and co-sponsored by the US, Britain, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Peru and Slovakia.

The draft resolution requires "all member states ... to exercise vigilance and prevent missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology" being transferred to North Korea's missile and weapons programs.

It also requires those states "to exercise vigilance and prevent the procurement of missiles or missile-related items, materials, goods and technology [from North Korea] and the transfer of any financial resources" to Pyongyang's weapons programs.

The document also "demands" that Pyongyang suspend all activities related to its missile program.

"The co-sponsors have come a long way in accommodating the concerns and views of Russia and China," Oshima said. "The revised text is more balanced, it gives a strong message that is needed to come from the Security Council on this very important issue."

The vote, which would cap more than 10 days of hard-nosed bargaining, had been deferred pending the outcome of a Chinese mediation mission to Pyongyang, which began on Monday.

But Christopher Hill, the top US negotiator on North Korea, said on Thursday that the Chinese mission had failed to break the stalemate.

China and Russia fear that tough punitive action against the isolated Stalinist regime in Pyongyang would further inflame tensions in Northeast Asia, setting back prospects for resuming six-party talks on getting the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and security incentives.

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