China and Russia sought on Wednesday to delay a Security Council condemnation of North Korea's nuclear arms program, a day after a top North Korean general said that any sanctions or blockades initiated by the US would be considered a "complete breach" of the truce that ended hostilities on the peninsula 50 years ago.
\nThe letter added that if the US took such actions, the North Korean army would "immediately take strong and merciless retaliatory measures" and promised that "horrible disasters" would befall the South Korean population.
\nThe July 1 letter from "the chief of the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army," contrasted sharply in tone though not in overall content from a letter the North Korean foreign minister, Paek Nam-sun, sent the Security Council last week.
\nThis week's harsh and unusual follow-up to the original letter led some diplomats to wonder if there is an internal North Korean dispute over what mix of conciliatory language and brute threats should be used in dealing with the UN and the US.
\n"The meaning is not clear, because we don't know if the army is speaking for Kim Jong-il," one senior Asian diplomat said, referring to the North Korean leader. "But it is unusual to have the Army communicating with the United Nations."
\nWhile some Asian diplomats here played down the threats in the letter as typical bombast, it was reminiscent of warnings from Pyongyang in 1994 about how it would react to sanctions -- warnings that led former US president Bill Clinton to prepare for the possibility of war on the peninsula.
\nAs the Security Council discussed the issue here, State Department officials as well as representatives of the National Security Council and the Pentagon were meeting with China's vice foreign minister, Wang Yi (
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