China firm on rejecting N Korea sanctions

The South Korean Foreign Minister, Han Sung Joo, returned home from Peking empty-handed yesterday after failing to win Chinese support for sanctions against North Korea. He was told that China still views negotiations as the only way to ease the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

In Washington, nervousness about the Korean crisis continued to grow. A senior State Department official predicted that Japan and Russia would go along with sanctions against North Korea, but conceded that China's support was highly uncertain.

Addressing a congressional hearing yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci said UN consultations on possible sanctions were likely to continue over the next few weeks, implying that no immediate action would be taken. He dismissed fears that Japan was having second thoughts about endorsing sanctions, but said Peking's stance was 'more complicated and difficult'. The best Washington can hope for, observers believe, is Chinese abstention in any Security Council vote on sanctions.

In Istanbul, meanwhile, the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said after a Nato foreign ministers meeting he expected sanctions to go ahead, whatever China's misgivings. The US was proceeding 'firmly and deliberately' towards securing sanctions, 'and I think they can be achieved'.

Even without Peking's assent, pressures are building in Washington for measures against Pyongyang. The House of Representatives voted 415-1 in favour of sanctions, while the former Secretary of State James Baker said the US should put together an ad hoc coalition of allies ready to impose them. Last weekend, Defence Secretary William Perry hinted Washington was ready to move in that direction.

North Korea remained intransigent yesterday, warning Japan that it could not escape punishment if it backed sanctions, which Pyongyang said it would regard 'as a declaration of war'. The South Korean Defence Minister, Rhee Byong Tae, said the North's forces were at their highest level of readiness since 1990, when there was a brief thaw in relations on the Korean peninsula.

The United States is leading efforts in the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea's hardline Communist regime, which has prevented inspection of its nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear arm, says obstruction of its inspectors means it is now impossible to determine whether Pyongyang has concealed plutonium for possible use in nuclear weapons.

The IAEA's governing council, meeting in Vienna, is expected to vote today to withdraw all technical assistance for North Korea's civil nuclear industry, apart from medical aid. The resolution was reported to be backed by 18 of the 35 governors, including four of the five permanent Security Council members - the US, Russia, Britain and France - as well as Japan.

Last year North Korea threatened to quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under which it is obliged to accept international inspection. It later suspended its withdrawal, but now claims 'special status' - or what one Western diplomat referred to as 'a la carte membership of the NPT' - allowing it to decide whether to allow or prevent inspections. The draft IAEA council resolution, obtained by news agencies, says North Korea 'remains a party to the Treaty . . . and is therefore bound by its safeguards obligations'.

China remains the most important opponent of sanctions, however, both in the IAEA and the Security Council. After South Korea's Mr Han met his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman repeated that Peking did not agree with sanctions, and that such moves 'would only push the parties into confrontation with each other'. He added: 'China believes that in seeking a solution there are two very important points - patience and time.'

As North Korea's most important ally and trading partner, China could have a pivotal role to play if it still has the power to influence Pyongyang. But Peking will not even say whether President Jiang Zemin raised the nuclear issue earlier this week when he met the visiting North Korean Army Chief of Staff, Choi Kwang.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London