U.S. wants U.N. to condemn N. Korea nuclear weapons program

Friday, June 20, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States wants the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea's nuclear weapons program and demand its immediate and permanent destruction, according to a draft American document obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte discussed the draft with diplomats from Russia, Britain and France on Wednesday, and with Chinese diplomats on Thursday, council diplomats said.

On April 9 the council refused to act on a U.S. request to condemn North Korea for pulling out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. There was strong opposition from China and Russia, which have close ties to Pyongyang. China indicated Wednesday it still wants the issue handled outside the council.

The draft document being circulated by the United States is a "presidential statement" which needs agreement by all 15 members of the Security Council and becomes an official part of its record after it is read in the council chamber by the council president. The presidency rotates among the 15 members.

Unlike a council resolution, a presidential statement is not legally binding, but serves much the same purpose as a "sense of the Senate" or "sense of the House" resolution in the U.S. Congress. It allows members to forcefully voice an opinion without requiring any action.

Negroponte refused to discuss reaction to the draft, saying only that "we will certainly continue to pursue" U.S. goals. He said no further meetings were planned. Diplomats said Washington faces a long, uphill struggle to get approval for the statement.

The U.S. draft "condemns North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and the actions the regime has taken since last October when it acknowledged it was pursuing a uranium enrichment program." It also condemns the country's "breach of its international obligations" under the NPT.

North Korea's action undermines the treaty, "increases the risk of proliferation to terrorist organizations and outlaw states, and poses a serious risk to regional and international security and stability," the draft says.

"The council calls upon the DPRK (North Korea) to immediately and completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible manner, and come into full compliance with its obligations under the NPT...," the draft says.

North Korea has warned that any Security Council action would undermine attempts to end the nuclear standoff peacefully, and it has said repeatedly it would see U.N. sanctions as a declaration of war.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it will quicken efforts to "strengthen its nuclear deterrent capabilities," calling U.S. pressure on the communist state "a declaration of war." It also said it would not consider further multilateral talks proposed by the United States to settle the dispute.

The nuclear dispute flared in October when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted it had a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement with Washington.

The United States and its allies suspended fuel shipments promised under the 1994 deal, and Pyongyang retaliated by expelling U.N. monitors, restarting facilities capable of making fuel for nuclear bombs and withdrawing from the NPT.

North Korea wants bilateral negotiations with Washington, but had recently said it might consider U.S. demands for talks involving several nations, if it could also meet one-on-one with the United States. Washington wants talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions to include Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, arguing that all four countries are affected.

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