China, South Korea Agree to Back Sanctions Against North Korea

The presidents of China and South Korea agreed Friday to support sanctions to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula but want to see stability maintained, a South Korean official said. He said they discussed a U.S.-proposed draft U.N. resolution on penalties but reached no agreement.

Presidents Hu Jintao and Roh Moo-hyun didn't discuss details of the steps that they want to see taken following the North's claimed nuclear test, said Song Min-soon, Roh's security adviser.

Meanwhile, Russia's envoy to the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program is in Pyongyang for consultations, the first known high-level visit to North Korea since the test earlier this week. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told The Associated Press that it was unclear where Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev would go after his talks in the North Korean capital. He offered no further details.

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China and South Korea are the North's main sources of trade and aid, and effective sanctions would require their cooperation. Both governments have warned against worsening the situation by overreacting.

Hu and Roh met as key U.N. Security Council members moved closer to agreement on the draft resolution and Japan imposed its own ban on travel and trade with North Korea.

"The leaders support appropriate sanctions that are necessary for realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that are effective in drawing an appropriate result," Song said at a news briefing.

However, they "agreed on the importance of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula in a stable manner," Song said. He said the leaders "exchanged views" on the U.S. draft but didn't go into details and reached no agreement.

The U.S. proposal would impose weapons and economic sanctions but rule out use of military force against North Korea over its purported nuclear test.

Earlier versions met opposition from Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members with power to veto U.N. actions. They want a more moderate response to Pyongyang's nuclear brinkmanship in hopes it would return to disarmament talks. China wanted to ensure that nothing in the draft could trigger military action.

Also Friday, a South Korean official said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is likely to visit South Korea next week.

Final details of the trip were still under discussion, the official told The Associated Press in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity because the visit hadn't been announced officially.

Rice also was expected to visit Japan next Tuesday on a trip that is also likely to include a stop in China, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Friday, citing unidentified Japanese and U.S. officials.

U.S. officials could not immediately confirm Rice's travel plans. A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said no visit had been announced or confirmed.

Japan's sanctions include a six-month ban on travel by North Korean officials to Japan and closing ports to its ships.

Docks in Sakaiminato, a Japanese port city a short journey from the North, were abuzz with activity as North Korean ships loaded their final cargoes of secondhand bicycles and household appliances.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet approved the sanctions during a meeting early Friday, Cabinet Office official Keizo Eguchi said.

At the United Nations, the United States insisted a resolution must be under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which authorizes punishments ranging from breaking diplomatic ties and imposing economic sanctions to naval blockades and military actions.

The new U.S. draft eliminates the blanket arms embargo in the previous draft and instead would bar transfers of specific equipment including tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile systems, armored combat vehicles and large-caliber artillery systems.

It keeps the requirement that all countries prevent the sale or transfer of luxury goods and material and technology that could help North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs.

The new draft would condemn the nuclear test, demand that North Korea immediately return to six-party talks on its nuclear program without preconditions and impose sanctions for disregarding the council's appeal. It would also demand that North Korea "not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile."

The six-nation talks, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled for 13 months.

Beijing and Moscow objected to the wide scope of financial sanctions and a provision authorizing the inspection of cargo going in and out of North Korea, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Some diplomats are concerned that boarding North Korean ships could lead to a military response from the North.

The latest draft keeps the financial freeze on individuals and entities with any relation to North Korea's weapons or missile programs as well as a travel ban on those associated with the programs.

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