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Japan Urges UN Sanctions Against North Korea


Japan is urging the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea for its barrage of missile launches. But analysts say strong opposition from powerful Council members makes strong action unlikely.

Japan introduced a strongly-worded draft Security Council resolution Wednesday, less than a day after North Korea staged a series of provocative missile tests.

The measure calls for sanctions to prevent Pyongyang from receiving funds, material or technology that could be used in developing missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said Tokyo has already imposed its own penalties in response to the North Korean tests. He called the latest tests more serious than a previous North Korean missile firing in 1998, because of the advancement Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. "So the combination, the possible combination of nuclear weapons with missile development and testing really bring this matter to a much more different level than it was in 1998 and it is in that context that my government brought this issue to the Council for quick strong action," he said.

Permanent Security Council members France, Britain and the United States back the Japanese resolution. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton says he sees strong support for sending a clear signal to Pyongyang. "This is obviously a very serious matter, because of the North Korean provocation, but this is precisely what the Security Council is designed to handle and we hope the council will rise to the occasion," he said.

But two other veto-wielding Council members, Russia and China, oppose any resolution on North Korea, much less one that includes penalties.

China's Ambassador to the U.N. Wang Guangya calls the missile launches "regrettable", but suggests his country would accept no more than a presidential statement like the one approved by the Council after North Korea's 1998 missile launch. "Certainly this is not the first time the SC takes action on this particular issue, because we had a precedent in 1998, so if all Council members feel that some appropriate action is needed by the Council, then we will see," he said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin agrees that that the Council should send a strong and clear message to Pyongyang. But he, too, rejects sanctions. He says the Council might be better off issuing a non-binding statement. "In 1998, in a somewhat similar situation, a press statement by the president of the Security Council was made, so maybe it would be proper to have a presidential statement instead of a resolution," he said.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, who holds the Security Council presidency for July, Wednesday predicted swift action on the Japanese draft resolution. But he said it is too early to tell what the outcome would be.

Pyongyang's U.N. envoy Pak Gil Yon declined to speak to reporters Wednesday. North Korea's foreign ministry described the missile launches as a matter of national sovereignty. A ministry official said no country has a right to judge North Korea's decision to carry out the tests.

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