North Korea Sanctions Approved; Enforcement May Be Tough

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved tough sanctions against North Korea for its claimed nuclear test, but divisions over how to enforce them signaled that implementation may not be easy.
( [email protected] ) Oct 14, 2006 04:28 PM EDT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved tough sanctions against North Korea for its claimed nuclear test, but divisions over how to enforce them signaled that implementation may not be easy.

One of the biggest differences was over a call on countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in unconventional weapons or ballistic missiles.

The final resolution was softened from language authorizing searches, but was still unacceptable to China — the North's closest ally and largest trading partner — which said it would not carry out any searches.

Japan and Australia promised Sunday to immediately enforce the sanctions and said they were considering imposing harsher penalties of their own. South Korea also pledged to implement the measures but gave no details on how it would do so.

The Security Council already had to overcome sharp divisions to approve the sanctions Saturday.

The U.S-sponsored resolution demands North Korea eliminate all its nuclear weapons but expressly rules out military action against the country, a demand by the Russians and Chinese.

The resolution orders all countries to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting any material for weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles. It orders nations to freeze assets of people or businesses connected to these programs, and ban the individuals from traveling.

North Korea immediately rejected the resolution, and its U.N. ambassador walked out of the council chamber after accusing its members of a "gangster-like" action which neglects the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the U.N. resolution Sunday as "surprisingly tough" and said his country was considering stronger measures of its own.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan was also considering additional sanctions against North Korea, following its move Friday to ban trade with the North and close its ports to North Korean ships. Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Japan could support U.S. forces inspecting cargo in an out of the North, though he did not give details, Kyodo News Agency reported.

China is uncomfortable with the possibility of the U.S. interdicting ships near its coasts, though Bolton has said he expects most inspections would be performed at ports. China reiterated it wouldn't conduct any inspections and called for caution.

"China strongly urges the countries concerned to adopt a prudent and responsible attitude in this regard and refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tensions," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said.

South Korea, which taken a conciliatory approach to the North and provided its neighbor with massive amounts of aid, said it will honor the U.N. resolution but did not elaborate on its plans for inspections.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, indicated the sanctions would not affect a tourism venture and a joint industrial complex in the North, saying the "projects have nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction program."

Critics have urged the South Korean government to halt the two projects, saying that funds may be diverted for the North's nuclear weapons program.

The Security Council condemned the nuclear test that North Korea said it conducted Oct. 9. It demanded that North Korea immediately return to six-nation talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to dismantle its weapons program without precondition.

Bolton told reporters Saturday the next step is to start working on implementing the resolution.

"Hopefully on saner reflections perhaps they'll begin to accept that if they don't change course, the only future for them is continued isolation," he said.

In a measure aimed at North Korea's tiny elite, the resolution also bans the sale of luxury goods to the country. The North's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, is known for his love of cognac and lobster and collection of thousands of bottles of vintage French wine.

To meet Russian and Chinese concerns, the Americans eliminated a complete ban on the sale of conventional weapons. Instead, the resolution limits the embargo to major hardware such as tanks, warships, combat aircraft and missiles.

The U.S. and other nations trying to persuade the North to give up its atomic program continued a flurry of high-level diplomatic visits, including a trip to Asia by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meant to present a unified front to North Korea.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev, who visited North Korea last week arrived in South Korea on Sunday. The chief U.S. envoy to the six-nation talks, Christopher Hill, will visit Japan on Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said.

Pyongyang has boycotted the six-nation talks for the past 13 months to protest financial measures imposed by Washington for alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering.

Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.

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