S. Korea Suspends Food Aid to North
Push for Renewal of Nuclear Talks Brings Meeting to Bitter End
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 14, 2006; A18

TOKYO, July 14 — South Korea on Thursday suspended humanitarian aid to North Korea until it agrees to return to international nuclear disarmament talks. The action infuriated visiting North Korean officials, who immediately cut off high-level talks in South Korea and stormed back home.

The decision to postpone consideration of a North Korean request for 500,000 tons of rice marked the South’s first punitive action against its impoverished communist neighbor since July 4, when the North test-fired seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2. The move came as the administration of South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun confronted sharp public criticism at home for what many there viewed as a weak response to the tests.

South Korea also reiterated its deep opposition to a push by Japan and the United States to impose broader sanctions on North Korea through a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council. Seoul has vowed to maintain its “sunshine policy” of engagement, which has fostered the warmest ties between the Stalinist North and the capitalist South since the Korean War ended in stalemate more than half a century ago.

But the decision to follow through with a previous threat to suspend food aid if North Korea tested missiles — a threat many experts doubted the Seoul government would stick to — displayed a new willingness by the South to use its significant economic clout to apply pressure on the North.

The North Koreans — whose economic assistance from the South is topped only by aid from China — appeared jolted by the decision. Pyongyang’s delegation departed abruptly on Thursday afternoon from talks in the South Korean city of Pusan that were originally scheduled to end Friday. South Korea’s Yonhap news service reported that the North Korean officials left after circulating a statement calling the rupture the result of “reckless” attempts by South Korea to raise “irrelevant issues.” Those issues, South Korean officials said, were the recent missile tests and the North’s refusal to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program.

The North bitterly condemned the decision to suspend food aid, saying, “The South side will pay a price before the nation for causing the collapse of the ministerial talks and bringing a collapse of North-South relations.”

South Korean officials, who in recent years have rolled out the red carpet for their visiting North Korean kin, this time offered them a simple meal and hospitality without the customary sightseeing excursions and photo opportunities. When the North’s representatives understood they would not be returning with promises of more food aid, they simply left.

For the United States and Japan, which are both pushing for a strong draft resolution at the United Nations that would ban international trade in North Korean missile and other military technology, the South Korean action was a rare diplomatic bright spot.

Christopher R. Hill, Washington’s top envoy on North Korea, left Beijing for Washington on Thursday after it became apparent that Chinese efforts to persuade the Pyongyang government to return to the six-party talks had failed. Before leaving, Hill said there was no indication that the North Koreans had decided to end their boycott of the talks, which have been stalled since last November.

Japan, which has been deeply rattled by the missile tests, has pushed for a tough resolution that would impose sanctions on the North. But Japan’s Kyodo news service quoted several government officials early Friday as saying the Tokyo government might be willing to offer a compromise resolution taking into account a Chinese and Russian proposal to censure North Korea with only voluntary punitive actions.

“The Chinese are as baffled as we are,” Hill told reporters in Beijing. “China has done so much for that country, and that country seems intent on taking all of China’s generosity and then giving nothing back.”

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China to Block Vote Condemning N. Korea
Competing Text on Missile Tests Offered
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 13, 2006; A20

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 — China and Russia presented the U.N. Security Council Wednesday with a draft resolution that “strongly deplores” North Korea’s July 4 missile tests. But it endorses only voluntary measures aimed at restraining Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The move threatens to head off a U.S.-backed effort to impose mandatory sanctions on North Korea, and places the United States, Japan and their European allies in the difficult position of having to offer concessions to secure Beijing’s and Moscow’s support or face a certain veto of their tougher sanctions resolution.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, confirmed Wednesday that he is prepared to veto a legally binding, U.S.-backed resolution that would condemn the missile tests, demand North Korea cease launching missiles, and ban trade in nuclear or missile technology with North Korea.

Wang expressed concern that the resolution drafted by Japan and co-sponsored by the United States, Britain, France, Greece and the Slovak Republic might ultimately serve as a pretext for military action against North Korea.

“The political position of my government is clear: that we have political difficulties with that draft,” Wang told reporters outside the council after presenting his competing resolution. “If that draft is put to a vote without any modifications, the instructions from me is to veto it.”

The diplomatic moves come as North Korea showed no signs of yielding to Chinese pressure to recommit itself to a 1999 moratorium on missile tests and resume six-nation talks aimed at ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

There is general agreement in the 15-nation council that North Korea’s launch of seven missiles, including a failed test of a Taepodong-2 missile with the capability to reach parts of Alaska and Hawaii, was a reckless act of belligerence against its neighbors, primarily Japan. But the Security Council remains divided over a response.

Despite China’s veto threat, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said the Chinese and Russian initiative was “a significant step” forward. For weeks, Moscow and Beijing refused to consider passage of any resolution, preferring to criticize Pyongyang’s action with a weaker, nonbinding council statement. “Now we can talk about a resolution, which is the appropriate measure through which the Security Council should act,” Bolton said.

Bolton insisted that China and Russia make further compromises or face a vote on the U.S.-backed sanctions resolution, raising the prospect of China’s sixth veto in history. “We’re prepared to push ahead for a vote. We’ve deferred it on the basis of the high-level Chinese mission in Pyongyang,” Bolton said. “But if the resolution comes to a vote and China votes no, then that will be a decision they will have to make.”

Japan’s U.N. ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, the chief sponsor of that resolution, said the Chinese and Russian draft does not go far enough. “A quick glance at the text shows that there are very serious gaps on very important issues,” he said. “So we will study the text, but I believe it is going to be very difficult for us to accept that as it is.”

The effort to forge a unified response to North Korea’s tests has been complicated by the lingering resentment over the U.S. decision to go to war against Iraq without explicit Security Council resolution. Chinese and Russian diplomats have repeatedly noted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has influenced their decisions not to support tough resolutions on Iran and North Korea.

The Chinese and Russian resolution calls on Pyongyang to observe a 1998 moratorium on ballistic missile tests and to resume six-nation talks aimed at eliminating North Korea’s nuclear program. It also calls on U.N. members to neither purchase from nor sell technology to North Korea and to “exercise vigilance” in halting the transfer of missile technology to Pyongyang.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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