July 10, 2006

US envoy off to Beijing for N.Korea crisis talks

By Toshi Maeda

TOKYO (Reuters) - The top U.S. envoy on North Korea headed
back to Beijing on Tuesday for an unscheduled visit as efforts
intensified to find a diplomatic solution to a crisis sparked
by Pyongyang's test-launch of missiles last week.

Overnight the U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on a
Japan-sponsored resolution to impose sanctions on the isolated
state so as to allow time for a high-level Chinese delegation
to talk to Pyongyang.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who had been in the
North Korean capital, returned to Beijing on Tuesday,
apparently for talks with the U.S. special envoy, Christopher

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who began a six-day visit to
North Korea on Monday, was apparently still there. And North
Korean official Yang Hyong Sop arrived in Beijing for a
five-day visit that would include a meeting with Chinese
President Hu Jintao, Xinhua news agency said.

A State Department official had said on Sunday that
Washington believed it had the backing in the 15-member council
for the resolution to pass.

"China has a diplomatic mission currently in the field ...
we'll see how the Chinese do," Hill told reporters in Tokyo
where he had held talks with Japanese officials on Monday.

"So I'll go to Beijing and hope to get a first-hand view on
how China sees their efforts right now," Hill added.

Hill rushed to northeast Asia late last week, visiting
Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo in an effort to forge a unified
response to Wednesday's multiple missile launches, which have
ratcheted up tension and exposed fault lines in responses by
regional powers.


China, backed by Russia, submitted its own draft of a U.N.
Security Council statement on Monday, fearing a binding
resolution imposing sanctions might be used to lay the
groundwork for future military action. Both Beijing and Moscow
have the power to veto any resolution.

South Korea also opposes sanctions.

The United States, Britain and Japan, however, are opposed
to the statement proposed by China.

Tokyo reiterated on Tuesday that it intended to call for a
vote on the binding resolution eventually.

"There is no change in our basic stance," Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi told reporters.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso said separately that Japan wanted
to see a decision on the resolution before the July 15-17 Group
of Eight summit in St. Petersburg and that the minimum content
would be a ban on providing missile technology to North Korea.

China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters on
Monday that a resolution branding North Korea a threat to
international peace and security "could be used by member
states to take actions which could make the situation even

Asked if he meant military force, Wang said: "certainly."

China's draft contains nearly all the elements of Japan's
rival resolution but is not legally binding.

The Japanese resolution invokes Chapter 7 of the U.N.
Charter, which makes it mandatory for all U.N. members and in
certain circumstances lays the groundwork for military force.


Beijing is now in the hot seat as the world watches to see
whether it can use its influence with North Korea to rein in
its prickly neighbor's missile and nuclear arms programs.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday
that she hoped Beijing could persuade Pyongyang to return to
stalled six-party talks on its nuclear programs, which also
involve South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The United States and Japan also want North Korea to
reinstate a moratorium on its missile launches.

In another sign of the search for a diplomatic solution,
South Korea planned to focus on the missile launch and the
North's nuclear programs in North-South ministerial talks in
the port city of Pusan from Tuesday.

North Korean officials were due in Pusan later in the day
for discussions originally due to concentrate on economic

Japan's ties with both South Korea and China have been
chilly since Koizumi took office in 2001 and began visits to a
war shrine his critics see as a symbol of Japan's past

The missile tests have widened the rift between Seoul and
Tokyo, especially. South Korea's presidential office accused
Japan at the weekend of over-reacting to the launches. On
Tuesday, it called remarks by Japanese leaders over the crisis
reckless and arrogant.

Koreans and Japanese have a history of centuries of
animosity, most recently stemming from Japan's harsh
colonization of the peninsula in the early 20th century.

In 1998, North Korea launched a long-range missile which
flew over Japan before splashing into the sea.

Wednesday's test-firing of no fewer than seven missiles has
rekindled a debate in Japan over whether Tokyo should develop
the capability to make pre-emptive strikes and whether these
would violate its pacifist constitution.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Seoul,
Christopher Buckley in Beijing, George Nishiyama and Chikako
Endo in Tokyo)