Washington urges N Korea embargo

THE United States yesterday proposed a mandatory arms embargo plus a two-stage package of diplomatic and economic sanctions against North Korea designed to curb that country's efforts to make a nuclear bomb. The proposal is deliberately modest in the first phase, which avoids economic sanctions in the hope of persuading China not to veto the package in the UN Security Council.

Announcing the package after lengthy inter-agency consultations in Washington, the US envoy to the UN, Madeleine Albright, said the aim was 'to get North Korea to take corrective action on past measures and to warn them about taking action in the future'. Within a week the US hopes the package will become a Security Council resolution.

The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, last night denounced the North Korean President, Kim Il Sung, as one of a brand of 'unpredictable tyrants with chips on their shoulders' who threatened post-Cold War peace. Speaking at the annual diplomatic banquet in London, he said Britain would join in 'all international efforts to persuade the North Koreans of what they have to do, to bring them to comply with their nuclear obligations.' He said an unwise move by North Korea would meet a resolute response.

The first phase of the US package calls for diplomatic isolation of North Korea and a mandatory arms embargo. UN member states are asked to reduce the presence of North Korean missions, ban scientific and cultural exchanges and end arms purchases, an important source of income for Pyongyang. UN development programmes would be terminated.

The second phase would include freezing North Korean assets and banning the transfer of assets to North Korea by its citizens. This phase would only be introduced if the UN's International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), monitoring the country's nuclear plants, is expelled and the agency cannot judge if it is diverting plutonium from its nuclear reactors for a bomb project.

Although North Korea announced on Monday it was withdrawing from the IAEA after the agency cut off dollars 250,000 ( pounds 165,000) in technical assistance, the two IAEA inspectors in North Korea for the past month were not expelled. In fact they were allowed to continue monitoring after the withdrawal announcement.

The former US president, Jimmy Carter, arrived in the capital, Pyongyang, yesterday for a four-day visit aimed at easing the crisis. Mr Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, met President Kim Il Sung in the afternoon. KCNA, Pyongyang's official news agency, quoted Mr Carter as saying that he had long yearned to visit North Korea and meet its leader, and was 'very glad to be invited'.

Yesterday, Ms Albright began the tricky task of gathering support for the US sanctions package. South Korea and Japan, the Americans' closest allies in the region, were at the top of her list. Neither country has strong objections, although Japan favoured the two- stage approach with the economic sanctions in phase two. A freeze on Pyongyang's assets and a ban on the transfer home of foreign currency by North Korean citizens would primarily affect North Koreans living in Japan.

Next, Ms Albright will consult the Russians and the Chinese. The US hopes Peking will go along with the first phase of the sanctions, and that North Korea will try to avoid the second by reaching a compromise with the IAEA.

No resolution is expected to be ready for a Security Council vote before next week, and the Clinton administration is determined to accelerate phase two of the sanctions if North Korea evicts the two IAEA inspectors.