Rice asserts U.S. plans no attack on North Korea

Posted in United States | 11-Oct-06 | Author: Thom Shanker and Warren Hoge| Source: International Herald Tribune

South Korean rice bound for the North. Sanctions urged by the United States might limit such shipments.
WASHINGTON Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States did not intend to invade or attack North Korea, but she warned the North's leaders that they now risked sanctions "unlike anything that they have faced before."

Even China, North Korea's most important ally, said Tuesday that tough measures were in order, though its representatives said the punishments might not necessarily be the harsh ones that Washington was proposing.

"For China, we need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate, but prudent, response," said Wang Guangya, the country's ambassador to the United Nations. "There have to be some punitive actions, but also I think these actions have to be appropriate."

The United States, Britain and France all want a resolution drafted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which makes sanctions mandatory and poses the possibility of military enforcement.

While both China and Russia have spoken of the importance of taking serious action against North Korea's reported nuclear test, they are traditionally against invoking Chapter VII and have not indicated whether they would end their opposition.

The United States wants agreement on sanctions this week. But even as the administration sought to push tough language into a Security Council resolution, the White House expressed doubts about the capacity of North Korea's nuclear program, based on evidence that the reported test had a smaller yield than expected. [Page A10.]

Sanctions sought by the United States include international inspections of all cargo moving in and out of North Korea to detect weapons-related material. But that might prove difficult for China and Russia to accept, in part because their coastlines and borders would be affected.

The diplomatic moves came a day after administration officials responded with shock and outrage to an official announcement from North Korea that it had detonated a nuclear device.

In an interview on CNN, one of a series of television appearances, Rice stressed that "the diplomatic path is open" for the North, and that giving up its nuclear program would "lead to all kinds of benefits for North Korea."

But she said the North's decision to pursue its nuclear program meant that it would face "international condemnation and international sanctions unlike anything that they have faced before."

The United States has imposed economic curbs on North Korea since the opening of the Korean War in 1950, though President Clinton lifted a few of them toward the end of his time in office, when relations seemed to be thawing.

Now, in its bid to tighten sanctions, Bush administration officials say, the United States is pursuing a two-track approach: trying at the United Nations to persuade other countries to cut off economic ties with the North, and using American banking laws to punish banks overseas that deal with North Korean companies.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Japan, met twice to work out differences on the sanctions proposed Monday by the United States. John Bolton, the American ambassador, reported the group was making headway and would meet again Wednesday.

"I think there is convergence on many issues, more than I would have predicted perhaps a day or two ago," Bolton said. "That's not to say we're there by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm pleased by the positive nature of the discussions and look forward to more progress tomorrow."

Bolton said he had discussed the proposal for North Korean ports separately with Wang, the Chinese envoy.

As for Russia, Bolton began the day complaining that Vitaly Churkin, the country's ambassador, had arrived at the morning session with no instructions from his government. He said it had left "a hole" in the conversations.

But after the afternoon session, he said Churkin had heard from Moscow and was able to take part in the debate. "We'll have some areas to discuss there and he raised some issues we had not thought of entirely, but by and large his comments were supportive," Bolton said.

Churkin left without making any comment.

Bolton declined to discuss specifics of the talks but said one amendment suggested by Japan - a ban on travel by members of the North Korean government - had attracted particular support.

Asked if he would limit the American demands in the interests of speeding the process of drafting a resolution, he said: "We want firmness and swiftness, and I think we can have both. That's our objective."

In television interviews and briefings for reporters, Rice and other officials reiterated past assurances that the United States was not moving toward occupying North Korea or toppling its government.

She said the administration's policy was still that the diplomatic path would be multilateral, through the stalled six-party talks, and not the two-way dialogue that North Korea has sought with the United States.

But even as the administration sought to unify its international allies, there were signs of fissures among Republicans over whether Washington should negotiate directly with North Korea.

Representative Heather Wilson, a New Mexico Republican and former Air Force officer who has played a leading role on national security issues, advocated bilateral negotiations, within the context of the six-party talks. "The idea here is to open a path for this rogue regime to walk back from the edge of the ledge," she said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with straight, tough talk with countries that are not our friends."

In the administration's quest for tough sanctions, much of the effort is focused on China, Japan and especially South Korea, which supply most of North Korea's imports and investments. Indeed, South Korea has invested heavily in the Kaesong Industrial Park, an economic enclave in the North that employs thousands in factories that produce shoes, cosmetics and other export goods.

The United States has tried, without much success, to get South Korea to limit its involvement in the enclave, arguing that North Korean financial institutions that are involved in it are also involved in illicit activities. In the wake of North Korea's latest nuclear steps, persuading South Korea may be easier, American officials say.

The unilateral drive by the United States is likely to expand on existing efforts that American officials maintain have already had a damaging effect on North. Indeed, the sanctions may have propelled North Korea to walk away from negotiations on its nuclear program and test a weapon, some experts say.

Now, with the enactment of American laws and executive orders after Sept. 11, 2001, new tools have become available, and they are likely to be expanded in coming weeks.

Under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, signed into law shortly after the 2001 attacks, the United States labeled a bank in Macao, Banco Delta Asia, as a "primary money-laundering concern" and declared that any bank doing business on American soil - virtually every big bank in the world - could not do business with it.

Administration officials say the ban on Banco Delta Asia badly disrupted North Korean activities, effectively froze the personal accounts of North Korean leaders and sent a message throughout the international financial system that the United States was prepared to do more.

Backing up that threat, President George W. Bush has accused several North Korean trading corporations of being involved in nuclear proliferation and missile activities, often in conjunction with Syria, Iran and Pakistan. American officials have also visited banks in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to tell them that dealings with those entities could jeopardize ties with American banks.

The aim, according to Stuart Levey, under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, is to put the international community "on notice about a particular threat" and get them to voluntarily end their dealings with North Korean entities.

Thom Shanker reported from Washington and Warren Hoge from the United Nations. Steven R. Weisman, David E. Sanger and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting from Washington.