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Learn from Saddam's example, U.S. warns Pyongyang
Timothy L. O'Brien
In a closed-door meeting reminiscent of the bitter diplomatic divisions that hamstrung the UN in the weeks leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in mid-March, delegates on the 15-member council were unable to craft a statement on the North Korean crisis or even agree on a date to resume the debate.
The threat of a nuclear confrontation on the Korean Peninsula first surfaced in October when North Korea told the UN that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expelling UN weapons inspectors.
It subsequently made moves suggesting it was reopening a mothballed nuclear plant, test-fired a missile, and has said it would regard any UN economic sanctions against it as an act of war.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the Security Council meeting ended, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said that the White House wanted to pursue diplomatic channels to resolve the standoff with Pyongyang and also wanted a credible vehicle in place for eliminating and monitoring North Korean weapons programs.
"North Korea's behavior has cast a shadow over the Korean Peninsula," Negroponte said. "We hope and believe a diplomatic solution is within the realms of possibility, but I think we'll will have to see how things play out."
Negroponte also warned North Korea not to take "further escalatory steps" in its nuclear agenda.
Pyongyang has pressed for direct negotiations with the United States to resolve the crisis, but the White House said it prefers to find a solution through the Security Council or other multilateral venues.
At a news conference in Rome Wednesday, John Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, warned North Korea, Iran and Syria to abandon any programs involving weapons of mass destruction and learn from the military strike the U.S. launched against Iraq.
"With respect to the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the post-conflict period, we are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest," Bolton said.
North Korea has accused the United States of using Security Council deliberations as a pretext for an invasion of the country and has said it expects a military strike against it once the United States finishes the war in Iraq.
Among the Security Council's five permanent members, Britain, the United States and France favor a more aggressive UN posture toward North Korea, including a resolution condemning Pyongyang for withdrawing from international nuclear accords.
But China and Russia - both of which initially opposed the meeting Wednesday - favor less confrontational tactics. "All the efforts are being done and will be done to promote political dialogue," China's ambassador to the UN, Wang Yingfan, said outside of the council's chambers.
"That's what I stressed" in the meeting, he added. The U.S. national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, reportedly discussed the North Korean situation with Russian leaders in Moscow on Monday. And a Japanese news agency reported on Monday that the United States and North Korea held preliminary talks for three days last week that involved Jack Pritchard, the U.S. special envoy to North Korea, and Han Song Ryol, a North Korean delegate to the UN.
In a private meeting of the council's permanent members on Monday at the French mission to the UN, China blocked a proposal by the U.S. to issue a statement condemning North Korea.
Although the White House has been highly critical of China's reluctance to take a stronger stance against North Korea, a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN said the White House would now target its criticism at North Korea instead.
Although the Security Council appears to be locked in yet another stalemate over North Korea, Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters that he hoped a diplomatic resolution of the crisis could still be found.
* Timothy L. O'Brien is a writer for the New York Times and has been featured on Korea WebWeekly. This view does not necessarily represent that of AFAR.
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