The top U.S. official on arms control said China does not oppose taking the North Korean nuclear dispute to the U.N. Security Council. That assessment came after a long day of talks in Beijing.
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton said Beijing will probably go along with efforts by the United States and other nations to get the United Nations to consider the dispute over North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons. "I do not detect any substantial opposition to bringing the matter into the [U.N. Security] Council," Mr. Bolton said.
China's agreement is important because Beijing has veto power in the Security Council.
Mr. Bolton said the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear weapons, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is likely to refer the issue to the council soon, perhaps this week.
North Korea recently expelled U.N. nuclear monitors and has rejected IAEA demands that they be allowed to return. The Security Council could impose sanctions or other penalties on North Korea if it continues to defy the United Nations, but Mr. Bolton said China and the United States did not discuss sanctions. North Korea said it would view sanctions as a "declaration of war."
The dispute first flared in October when Washington said North Korea admitted breaking a 1994 agreement with the United States by secretly working to build nuclear weapons.
The United States and its allies the cut oil deliveries promised under the deal, and the dispute escalated as North Korea expelled nuclear monitors, restarted frozen nuclear facilities, threatened to reprocess nuclear fuel and to resume testing ballistic missiles. Pyongyang also pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, prompting a frantic flurry of diplomacy by Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, the United States and other nations hoping to resolve the disagreement.