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China To Inspect North Korean Ships For Illegal Weapons

China has said it will comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution mandating inspections of North Korean cargo to search for illegal weapons. But China's U.N. ambassador ruled out further measures, including interdiction of cargo on the high seas.

Ambassador Wang Guangya confirmed China will comply with the Security Council's call for inspections of cargo going into or out of North Korea.

Two days after the Council unanimously adopted a series of punishing sanctions on Pyongyang, word from the Chinese-North Korean border indicated inspections have begun.

But Ambassador Wang made clear that China, a permanent member of the Security Council, does not interpret those sanctions as requiring interception and interdiction of North Korean ships on the high seas.

"Inspections yes, but inspections are different from interception and interdiction," said Wang Guangya. "I think, in that area, different countries would do it in different ways, but this is a Security Council resolution, under Chapter Seven, Article 41, and, therefore, the resolution has to be implemented."

Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter makes the sanctions legally-binding and mandatory on all member states. But, before the measure was adopted Saturday, China and Russia demanded changes that softened language on interdiction and inspection of North Korean cargo.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, Monday cautioned against a naval blockade. He warned that interdiction of ships could enflame tensions.

"One has to be very careful about it," said Vitaly Churkin. "When you go into inspections and things like that, cargo, one has to be very careful to avoid any semblance of provocation. Because this is the risk which we should all keep in mind."

The resolution, adopted Saturday, includes several mandatory sanctions, such as severe financial restrictions and a ban on North Korean trade in unconventional and heavy conventional weapons.

Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones-Parry, acknowledged that the language of the resolution permits each country leeway on how inspections will be conducted. But, in comments to reporters Monday, he maintained the resolution is strong enough to control the flow of weapons-related material into and out of North Korea.

"It is a very tough resolution," said Emyr Jones-Parry. "The point about inspection is in a slightly different wording, but the rest of the resolution is legally binding, very tough. It is a very good resolution. In terms of what happens on interdiction, inspection, that is for individual countries [to decide]. It is quite clear what the resolution calls for. Do not get too much emphasis on interdiction at sea, when actually what you can do at ports is very clear, both to control both exports and imports from North Korea."

In a related development, U.S. intelligence agencies say air samples gathered last week appear to confirm North Korea's nuclear test claim. Intelligence Director John Negroponte posted a statement on the U.S. National Intelligence web site, saying the blast was relatively small. He said it appears to have been less than one kiloton, or the equivalent of 1,000 tons of the explosive TNT.