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US to Ask UN Security Council to Formally Punish North Korea

The United States is asking the U.N. Security Council to vote Friday to impose legally binding sanctions on North Korea for the nuclear weapons test it claims to have done. But, Russia and China are calling for a delay.

America's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, Thursday circulated a revised draft of a toughly-worded North Korea sanctions resolution. He said negotiations are still in progress on the final wording, but he is hopeful of a vote by Friday.

"We're still open to suggestions, but we've believed from the time we first learned of the North Korean explosion that we needed a swift and a strong response," he said. "So that's why it's always been our hope to vote by the end of the week."

The United States and like-minded Council members favor severe and legally binding penalties that will send a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The draft co-sponsored by Britain, France, Japan and Slovakia would authorize international inspections of all cargo moving into or out of North Korea. It would also impose a strict arms embargo, a freeze on Pyongyang's development of weapons of mass destruction, and a ban on the sale of luxury goods to North Korea, among other things.

China and Russia have both signaled broad support for sanctions, but ambassadors from both veto-wielding Council members expressed reservations about some of the tough language in the U.S. draft.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya again called Pyongyang's test "an irresponsible act" that requires a firm response. But he expressed doubt that an early vote was possible, and cautioned that the Council's response should be "appropriate" so as not to further aggravate tensions.

"By appropriate I mean it should reflect the feelings of the international community, but more important, it should be helpful for leading to a solution of this issue by peaceful means, and should also create conditions for the parties to once again engage in negotiations to settle this issue," he said.

Wang and Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, noted a flurry of high-level diplomatic activity on the North Korean issue. A senior Chinese envoy was in Washington to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear test and will hold similar talks in Moscow. On another diplomatic track, South Korea's president is to consult with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

Ambassador Churkin said Thursday any Security Council action should be "cool-headed." He urged the Council to withhold action pending the outcome of the high-level talks.

"I think the international community will easily understand, if on the matter of this gravity and importance, the Security Council will take a few more days to have a reasoned and united response to the challenge we face from this explosion in North Korea," he said.

Pyongyang has reacted sharply to the threat of sanctions, saying they would be tantamount to a "declaration of war." A North Korean statement said Monday's apparent test was aimed at persuading the United States to enter direct talks.

President Bush Wednesday said he remains committed to diplomacy. He repeated that the United States has no intention of military action against North Korea. But he ruled out direct talks with Pyongyang, noting that past attempts at negotiation had failed.