UN nuclear sanctions may lead to a second Korean war, warns defiant North

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North Korea has angrily rejected a UN Security Council resolution imposing trade sanctions and condemning it for its recent batch of ballistic missile tests, saying it constituted "a prelude to the provocation of the second Korean War".

Concern over Pyongyang's continuing defiance of calls upon it to abandon its missile and nuclear weapons programmes spanned the world's diplomatic stage at the weekend, with the unanimous passing of the UN resolution on Saturday night, and additional debate among world leaders at the Group of Eight summit in Russia.

The UN resolution condemned the regime for test-firing seven ballistic missiles on 5 July. One among them was a long-range weapon that theoretically could travel as far as the western United States. It crashed within seconds of its launch, however.

The wording of the text was diluted somewhat at the eleventh hour to satisfy China and Russia. China, in particular, had threatened to veto an earlier version supported by Japan and the US that included language implying authorisation for the eventual use of military force against North Korea.

The resolution demands that all UN member states refrain from supplying North Korea with any technology that could assist its weapons programmes, and also from purchasing weapons-related goods from the country.

In a dramatic gesture, the North Korean ambassador broke UN protocol and walked out of the Security Council shortly after the vote was taken.

North Korea continued to attack the resolution yesterday. Aside from its reference to a new war on the peninsula, it said it would "bolster its war deterrent for self-defence", a statement taken to be a reference to its nuclear weapons capacity.

"Our republic vehemently denounces and roundly refutes the 'resolution', a product of the US hostile policy towards the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], and will not be bound to it in the least," the Foreign Ministry said.

"It is a brigandish logic to claim that missile launches conducted by the US and Japan are legal, while the training of missile launches conducted by the DPRK to defend itself is illegal."

But the United States seemed to take encouragement from the UN resolution, even in its less stringent form. At the G8 summit in St Petersburg, President George Bush met the Chinese leader, President Hu Jintao, to discuss the situation, and thanked him for supporting the text.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, reiterated the requirement on Pyongyang to re-enter the so-called six-party talks to resolve the issue. The talks stalled last September and were formally boycotted by North Korea in November in protest at new financial restrictions imposed upon it by Washington.

"I think ultimately North Korea will have no choice but to return to the talks and pursue denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," Ms Rice told reporters in St Petersburg.

"If they do not want to face some of the additional pressures that can be brought to bear on them, then I think that they will eventually realise that they've got to come back to the six-party talks. That's really the only game in town."

US officials also tried to play down the significance of Pyongyang's bellicose reaction. "It's probably not surprising that they have immediately rejected it," said Dan Bartlett, President Bush's senior counsellor. "Sometimes the first response is not the only response or the final response."

Countries in the region showed a united face, with officials in South Korea and Japan issuing statements last night welcoming the UN resolution and urging Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks. The Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said it sent a strong message.

President Hu and Mr Bush met on the fringes of the G8 summit to discuss the crisis on the peninsula, as well as other bilateral issues. "Both parties expressed their commitment to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," Mr Hu said.