Washington presses Beijing to back UN sanctions

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Washington presses Beijing to back UN sanctions

The United States is pressing China to support a new round of UN sanctions against North Korea’s defiant launch of a long-range rocket last week, a Seoul diplomatic source said yesterday, while Beijing shows no signs of endorsing a tougher UN response to Pyongyang.

North Korea’s Dec. 12 rocket launch drew swift condemnation from the UN Security Council, which has pledged to take “appropriate action” against North Korea for violating UN prohibitions that ban the North from carrying out any long-range missile development.

South Korea and the U.S. are asking the Security Council to adopt a tougher punishment in the form of a resolution, rather than a nonbinding measure known as a presidential statement, against North Korea. But, it is unclear whether China, a veto-wielding Security Council member, will back any new sanctions against the North.

“The U.S. has a strong willingness to get the Security Council to adopt a resolution against North Korea’s rocket launch even though discussions at the council are delayed until January,” said the diplomatic source with direct knowledge of U.N. discussions about the issue.

“The U.S. is also sending a message to China that it will have no choice but to beef up its military readiness against North Korea’s threats unless a resolution is adopted at the UN Security Council,” the source said on the condition of anonymity.

China, which has a track record of hindering tougher UN measures against North Korea, expressed “regret” over the North’s launch, but said any UN response to Pyongyang should be “prudent.”

On Monday, senior diplomats of South Korea and China also met in Beijing and discussed a possible UN response to North Korea, but the Chinese side reiterated its resistance, another diplomatic source in Seoul said.

Kim Bong-hyun, Seoul’s deputy minister for multilateral and global affairs, held talks with China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, but there was no official announcement on the results of the Kim-Ma talks.

“The Chinese side repeated its stance that it wants to keep peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the source said, referring to China’s response at the Monday talks in Beijing.

North Korea is already under UN sanctions imposed after its previous nuclear and missile tests.

The Security Council imposed its last round of sanctions in 2009 after North Korea conducted its second nuclear test.

Last week’s successful launch of a long-range rocket, which followed a failed launch attempt in April, is expected to help North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-il assert himself as Pyongyang marked the first anniversary of the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, this week, analysts said.

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