Published July 06, 2006
SEOUL, South Korea – A Chapter 7 resolution threatening sanctions against North Korea for launching missiles would pass if voted on, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday.
"The text of the Japanese resolution has broad and deep support," Amb. John Bolton said. "These missile launches clearly pose a threat to security ... This is a test of the Security Council."
Meanwhile two veto-wielding Security Council members — Russia and China — back-peddled on their position, proposing instead to issue a presidential statement.
Russian President Vladmir Putin, in an Internet conference, took a softer stance. The tests "should not lead to such emotions that would drown out common sense," Putin said.
A Chinese official voiced similar sentiments, calling North Korea and China "friendly neighbors."
U.S. President George W. Bush called both Chinese President Hu Jintao and Putin seeking a unified stance against North Korea, and also spoke to the leaders of South Korea and Japan.
"My message was that we want to solve this problem diplomatically, and the best way to solve this problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert," Bush said at a press conference Thursday.
North Korea mocked international criticism of its multiple missile tests, threatening to fire off more rockets. Pyongyang's foreign minister released a blustery statement declaring that it had the right to develop and test its weapons — and vowing unspecified retaliation against anyone who tries to stop it.
"Our military will continue with missile launch drills in the future as part of efforts to strengthen self-defense deterrent," said the statement, carried in state-run media. "If anyone intends to dispute or add pressure about this, we will have to take stronger physical actions in other forms."
The statement did not specify what actions North Korea would take.
North Korea set off an international furor on Wednesday when it tested seven missiles, all of which landed into the Sea of Japan without causing any damage. The blasts apparently included a long-range Taepodong-2 that broke up less than a minute after takeoff and splashed into the sea.
The aggressive stance from Pyongyang coincided with intense diplomatic activity in world capitals to formulate a response to the tests. Washington and its allies — particularly Japan — clamored for sanctions against the North, but struggled against resistance by China and Russia.
South Korea, divided from the North by the world's most heavily fortified border, took a markedly softer approach with Pyongyang on Thursday, shelving earlier criticism of the missiles and insisting on maintaining the ties with the North developed in recent years.
Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok told the National Assembly in a hearing that Cabinet-level meetings between the two Koreas scheduled for next week should go ahead, and that Seoul would not scuttle cross-border projects with North Korea because of the missile tests.
"There is no change in the sunshine policy," Lee said, referring to former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's strategy of rapprochement toward the North. Lee also said there was no need for the South Korean government to block personal exchanges between the two sides.
"If economic cooperation is undermined, there will be more loss," he said, adding that he hoped such projects as the industrial complex in North Korea jointly run by the two Koreas and sightseeing to a mountain resort in North Korea would not be affected by the missile furor.
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon followed suit. He dismissed the bombast in the North Korean statement, pointing out instead that Pyongyang had not ruled out a return to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
The talks have been stalled for months by a North Korean boycott in protest of U.S. financial sanctions on alleged counterfeiting, money-laundering and other wrongdoing by the impoverished, communist state.
"I think North Korea left the door open for participating in the six-party talks," Ban told lawmakers. "Our government will continue with its efforts for early resumption" of the talks.
Japanese officials said Tokyo and Washington agreed to push for sanctions against Pyongyang, while South Korean officials said they agreed only to cooperate in diplomacy, with no mention of punishing North Korea.
Chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill was to head to the region this week. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also planned to visit South Korea in late July for talks on North Korea, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said.
China also stepped up its efforts, but insisted diplomacy — not threats — was the way to approach Pyongyang. Its chief negotiator with North Korea, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, was to travel to Pyongyang for celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the neighbors and allies.
"China and North Korea are friendly neighbors," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular briefing.
The North Korean statement threatening more tests came as South Korean officials said intelligence reports showed continued activity at Northern missile sites, suggesting further firings could be in the works.
It was unclear if or when the missiles would fly. Japanese officials said they had no indications another Taepodong test was being prepared, and South Korean officials said the launches were not imminent.
Still, the North pulled no punches in its statement, hailing the launches on Wednesday as a success and making no mention of the Taepodong-2 failure.
"The successful missile launches were part of our military's regular military drills to strengthen self defense," said the statement. "As a sovereign country, this is our legal right and we are not bound by any international law or bilateral or multilateral agreements."
The ministry also denied it had violated a missile moratorium, saying it was only in effect when Pyongyang was in dialogue with the U.S. The statement also blamed the Japanese for making an international issue out of North Korea's unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens.
FOX News' Cassie Carothers, Eric Shawn and David Piper and the Associated Press contributed to this report.