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US presses to enforce North Korea resolution

Secretary Rice travels to Northeast Asia this week following UN passage of a resolution Saturday.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 16, 2006


Armed with a unanimously passed Security Council resolution imposing the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to Northeast Asia this week to try to ensure that the new measures work.

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Long term, the goal, as approved at the United Nations in New York Saturday, is dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. More short term, the sanctions aim to stop the country from purchasing or transferring materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction. It was the North's apparent test of a nuclear weapon a week ago that set off the chain reaction of diplomatic activity.

But with crucial countries in any interdiction program – including China – already balking at some resolution measures, Secretary Rice will use stops in Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing to press the international community beyond condemnation of North Korea to action.

The US efforts in the North Korea case will also have implications for the international effort to sway Iran's nuclear ambitions, especially given that the Security Council is expected to take up this week Iran's refusal to cease its uranium enrichment program.

The United States is buoyed by the unprecedented cooperation it believes is beginning to emerge on stopping nuclear proliferation by what it considers rogue regimes. But at the same time, the flurry of nuclear diplomacy is likely to strain cooperation in cases where countries do not see eye to eye with the US.

Indeed, Rice is sure to run into interference in Beijing, which is unhappy with what it calls the North's "flagrant" acts but which nevertheless feels it has different interests in the North Korea case from those of the US.

As one example, China's UN ambassador has said it will not participate in a cargo inspections program that the resolution approves for detecting barred weapons and materials either leaving or entering the country. China, which worries about the impact of a destabilized North Korea, says such disruption of trade could have a deleterious impact on the entire region.

One aim of the US and other countries will be to convince the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that it is first and foremost its own actions, such as the recent test, that threaten its existence, experts say.

"For sanctions to be effective, they have to prevent further escalation, which I think we can do, and they have to demonstrate within the North Korean leadership that the step they have taken is going to make their regime less stable and more likely to collapse," says Michael Green, who served as Asia director in the Bush National Security Council until December and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

But just the mention of instability gives China and South Korea cold feet about pressing the North, so Rice will face those fears as she seeks to keep key players in the North Korea equation on board.

"The Security Council resolution will be the guiding document, but the US is going to be looking for tougher actions from South Korea in particular, and that could cause some frictions," says Chung-in Moon, a professor of political science at Yonsei University in South Korea and an ambassador for international security with the South Korean government.