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A South Korean man stands between pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during an anti-North Korea rally at downtown of Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006. South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Sunday it welcomes and supports a U.N. resolution on North Korea and urged its communist neighbor to return to six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons program. The Korean reads "Support a U.N. resolution on North Korea."
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Oct. 16, 2006
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North Korea Claims International Community has Declared War
This weekend, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to the recent nuclear test carried out by Pyongyang. The North Korean delegation called the resolution a "declaration of war." Despite the unanimity with which the resolution was adopted, it is unclear whether it will be implemented: China, for example, is refusing to inspect vessels bound for North Korea. The situation obviously will not become any clearer for at least a month, until after November's congressional elections in the United States.
Last Saturday, a diplomatic scandal in the best tradition of the Cold War rocked the UN headquarters in New York. The members of the Security Council voted unanimously for a resolution proposed by the US but softened somewhat on the insistence of Russia and China. However, any hope held by the diplomats that Pyongyang would submit to the will of the international community was quickly dashed.

North Korean ambassador Pak Kil-yon accused the United States of using "threats, sanctions, and pressure" to force North Korea "to prove that it possesses nuclear weapons for defending its sovereignty and right to exist against the daily-increasing threat of war coming from the United States." He called the resolution condemning North Korea a "brigand action" that will be seen in Pyongyang as a "declaration of war," and with that the North Korean delegation left the meeting hall.

John Bolton stated that he does not intend to waste time on a reply to the North Korean diplomat and noted that the ambassador's behavior was reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the UN podium in 1960. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin immediately requested that the Japanese representative in the Security Council use his influence to convince Mr. Bolton that henceforth, "even in an emotional state, [he should] not use inappropriate analogies." After this brief squabble, the diplomats went their separate ways.

Tense disputes between the members of the Security Council over the final variant of the resolution condemning North Korea for its test of a nuclear device on October 9 dragged out for almost a week. Immediately after Pyongyang officially announced that a test had been carried out, and after seismic monitoring stations had registered an earthquake centered in the northern part of North Korea, Washington called for harsh sanctions to be imposed on North Korea. The proposed sanctions stipulated a ban on the trade of materials or equipment with North Korea that could be used to produce nuclear or ballistic weapons, the freezing of North Korea's assets, a blanket refusal of entry visas for North Koreans connected with the weapons programs, and even a ban on selling ordinary weapons to North Korea. This variant was supported by France, Great Britain, and Japan. But Russia and China, although they condemned the North Korean nuclear test, opposed the American proposal.

In a noteworthy aside, although it was the Americans who pushed for harsh sanctions, they long maintained that they did not believe North Korea's announcement of a successful nuclear test, insinuating instead that Pyongyang was bluffing. Washington's position was clearly explained by the immanence of the US congressional elections, which are scheduled for November. By attempting to play down the significance of the North Korean tests, the Bush administration is trying to defend itself from Democratic critics who would blame the current administration for its shortsighted policies in regard to Pyongyang. Cited in support of the version claiming a North Korean "nuclear bluff" were the insufficient power of the blast and the absence of radioactivity in the atmosphere over the test site.

But this Saturday, radioactivity was discovered after all. Due to a convergence of circumstances, at exactly that moment the United States and its allies were softening their stance to include a number of concessions to Russia and China. The toned-down version of the resolution was adopted after a secret vote. The resolution adopted excludes the use of military force against North Korea and also removes a point concerning a ban on deliveries of light arms to Pyongyang, which Russia and China are clearly counting on selling to North Korea.

The rest of the resolution preserves a significant amount of harshness. It forbids the sale of offensive weapons to North Korea, including heavy tanks and armored vehicles, heavy artillery systems, fighter jets and helicopters, military ships, and missiles and missile systems. It is forbidden to import or export materials and equipment that can be used to produce nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. All countries are obliged to freeze North Korea's accounts and to refuse entry to North Koreans who have connections to the nuclear or missile programs. Simultaneously, North Korea is called upon to renounce nuclear weapons and discontinue all of its nuclear and missile programs.

Another, more exotic ban forbids the sale of luxury goods to North Korea. As John Bolton explained, "the people of North Korea have long been suffering in terms of weight and height [i.e., from malnutrition]," and now it is Kim Jong-il's turn to go on a diet. Experts say that the ban will deprive the North Korean leader of his beloved Ц and expensive Ц French wines. The resolution also recommends that all countries take part in a collective program to inspect vessels that could be transporting cargo connected with nuclear or missile programs to or from North Korea.

Ban Ki-moon, who will become the UN's next general secretary, lauded the resolution, saying it sent a "very clear, strong, and solidarity-based signal" to Pyongyang that its nuclear tests will not be tolerated. But he also stressed that North Korea should not simply be punished, but also invited to participate in a dialog. He was supported by Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who said, "the sanctions are aimed at urgently returning North Korea to its pre-nuclear status and reviving the six-sided talks without any preconditions."

American UN ambassador John Bolton said that the most important thing now is that all countries abide by the conditions set forth in the resolution. However, the UN member countries are not unanimous on this question. Chinese representative Wang Guangya cautioned against "provocative steps that may increase tensions." Everyone remembers that several days ago Pyongyang demanded that Washington agree to begin two-sided talks, threatening that otherwise North Korea would outfit its missiles with nuclear warheads. As such, neither China nor South Korea is in a hurry to press forward with sanctions, hoping rather that the crisis can be resolved by diplomatic means.

In the midst of the crisis, Russian deputy foreign affairs minister Alexander Alekseev is completing an official visit to the region. Upon arriving yesterday in Seoul from Pyongyang, he announced that North Korea had consented to fulfill an agreement reached at the last round of the six-sided talks in September of last year, which stipulates that Pyongyang renounce all of its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for a guarantee of security and economic aid. North Korea's refusal to abide by that agreement led to the introduction of economic sanctions by the United States in October, and it was in order to convince Washington to lift the sanctions that Pyongyang exploded an atom bomb on October 9.

No one knows whether the North Korean leadership will in the future confirm the desire to resume negotiations that it expressed to Mr. Alekseev. In 2000, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il demonstrated his diplomatic flexibility by initially promising Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would renounce his nuclear ambitions, only to say later that he had been joking. However, whatever North Korea's intentions may be, the US will not be ready to resume negotiations for at least a month. In the run-up to the congressional elections, the Republican administration is concentrating all of its efforts on shuffling the blame for the failure with regard to North Korea onto the shoulders of former president Bill Clinton, under whom dialog with Pyongyang went forward much more actively. And that means that until the beginning of November Washington will continue to toy with exacerbating the situation.


Andrey Ivanov and Mikhail Zygar

All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 16, 2006

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