July 15, 2006

UN Council edges closer to N. Korea vote

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Japan and the United States said
they expected adoption on Saturday of a U.N. resolution
imposing weapons-related sanctions on North Korea but cautioned
that the text was not yet complete.

Japan was still waiting for final instructions, a council
diplomat told Reuters after informal talks among key members.

Both countries are aiming for a unanimous U.N. Security
Council vote, without either a veto or an abstention from China
and Russia, which had produced a rival text on Wednesday.

"We had a lot of progress but there are still last-minute
important things that need to be cleared up," Russian U.N.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after informal talks among key
council members.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said negotiations were
continuing "but we are getting close" and he expected a vote by
afternoon. Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, who had drafted
the original resolution, said he too hoped for a vote but noted
there was "no final decision yet."

The Security Council has wrangled for days over the
response to North Korea's seven missile tests on July 5, which
raised international tensions, mainly because of Pyongang's
development of nuclear weapons.

The key obstacle is whether the resolution should invoke
Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can lay the groundwork for
military force if a follow-up resolution is adopted.

China and Russia reject any mention of Chapter 7, recalling
the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which did not get specific
council authorization. Beijing's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya,
had threatened a veto if those words were included.

Bolton said on Friday he was open to other wording that
would make the resolution mandatory as Chapter 7 does and
Britain and France suggested alternative language. Oshima did
not respond while diplomats said China and other sponsors of
the draft had agreed.


The latest text circulated by Japan and its supporters
condemns the missile launches and demands that North Korea
suspend "all activities" on its ballistic missiles.

It imposes sanctions by requiring that all U.N. member
states prevent any imports to or exports from North Korea of
missiles and missile-related items and materials that could be
used in weapons of mass destruction.

Japan wanted to have the resolution passed before a summit
of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which opened on
Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is expected to issue a
statement on North Korea.

U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley said in St.
Petersburg the resolution had "to show that the international
community is speaking with one voice to North Korea."

North Korea, a reclusive Stalinist state, has rebuffed
worldwide criticism of its missile tests and resisted pressure
to return to talks on winding up its nuclear arms program, but
its neighbors pressed on with diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

Kyodo news agency -- quoting a Japanese minister in Beijing
-- said that a Chinese government delegation had returned from
Pyongyang carrying a message from North Korean leader Kim
Jong-il, whose closest ally is China. It gave no details.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung arrived in
Beijing Saturday for talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister
Wu Dawei, who was part of the mission to North Korea.

Seoul's diplomatic effort came after Pyongyang stormed out
of Cabinet-level talks with the South on Thursday.

Meanwhile, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said Kim
had called the country's 30 top foreign envoys back to
Pyongyang for a meeting next week, the first of its kind in
five years.

(Additional reporting by Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo, Jack Kim
in Seoul and Brian Rhoads in Beijing, Steve Holland in St.