President Bush and other top administration officials met Thursday with a senior Chinese envoy, who told them Beijing supports strong measures against North Korea following its announced nuclear test. It is unclear, though, whether China will back the draft sanctions resolution the United States is co-sponsoring in the U.N. Security Council.
The Chinese envoy, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan conferred at the White House with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Then all three went to Oval Office to meet President Bush in a meeting that underlined shared U.S. - Chinese concern about the nuclear test North Korean said it conducted last Monday.
Deputy National Security Adviser J.D. Crouch told reporters the Chinese envoy conveyed a message that Beijing agrees with the United States that some strong measures are needed to convince Pyongyang to return to negotiations on its nuclear program.
Crouch said that included agreement on the need for a U.N. resolution responding to the announced test, though he stopped short of saying Beijing would support the toughly-worded draft introduced by the United States and others in the Security Council this week.
In a picture-taking session here with Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz, Secretary of State Rice described the meeting with the Chinese envoy as excellent and forecast approval of a U.N. resolution on North Korea that will demonstrate international resolve:
"I think they clearly understand the gravity of the situation," said Condoleezza Rice. "They clearly understand that the North Koreans, in doing this, have made the environment much less stable, much less secure. And they're working very hard in New York, but I believe we'll get a very good resolution that will demonstrate to the North Koreans that the international community is very much united in its condemnation of this test that was carried out a couple of days ago."
The Secretary said she did not know if the resolution would be approved by Friday, as U.S. officials had been hoping, but said it will be soon.
The draft co-sponsored by the United States, France, Japan and Slovakia would authorize international inspections of all cargo moving in and out of North Korea.
It would also, among other things impose an arms embargo and ban the sale to North Korea of luxury goods.
China's U.N. envoy, Wang Guangya, said in New York he was unsure of a vote Friday, and that while there was considerable common ground on the proposed resolution there were also some disagreements.
Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin meanwhile said any Security Council action should be cool-headed, and that given the gravity of the issue it would be understandable if the Security Council took a few more days to act in a reasoned and united way.
The Bush administration says the intent of the draft resolution is to get Pyongyang to return to Chinese sponsored six-party talks on its nuclear program, where North Korea had agreed in principle in September of last year to give up its weapons ambitions in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said that despite the apparent test, North Korea had not passed a point of diplomatic no return with its nuclear program.
He said there were ample precedents of countries either possessing or seeking nuclear weapons that subsequently renounced them, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Libya.