UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Security Council members reached a broad compromise on a resolution that would impose nonmilitary sanctions on North Korea for the nuclear test it announced earlier this week, diplomats said Friday.
A vote was set for Saturday and diplomats indicated that minor changes needed to be made to the resolution before that could take place.
"There may some additional changes to the text between now and the time we put it in blue (final form) this afternoon and obviously before we vote tomorrow," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said after a brief closed-door meeting. "But we do have unanimous agreement and we're going to follow that schedule."
Bolton, who introduced the legislation, said the 15-member council's agreement just five days after North Korea's announcement it had detonated a nuclear device was "a sign of the determination of the council in the face of this threat to move quickly."
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, the current council president, also said that a vote would take place.
Earlier drafts by the United States met with opposition by China and Russia, who were concerned that the resolution could be used to launch a military attack on North Korea.
The latest draft would only authorize nonmilitary sanctions against the North and says any further action the council might want to take would require a new resolution. It also eliminates a blanket arms embargo in a previous draft, instead targeting specific equipment for sanctions, including missiles, tanks, warships and combat aircraft.
The draft prevents the sale or transfer of luxury goods and material and technology that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs. It authorizes cargo inspections to prevent the trafficking in such material.
It would also freeze the financial assets of individuals and entities with any connection to North Korea's weapons or missile programs as well as a travel ban on those associated with the programs.
The council's agreement coincided with a Russian news agency report that North Korea favors the implementation of a year-old agreement to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev speaking after consultations in Pyongyang.
The report apparently referred to an agreement reached in September 2005 at six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. Pyongyang has boycotted the talks for the past 13 months to protest financial measures imposed by Washington for alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering.
Pyongyang said it "wants to resolve the issues linked with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the near future through negotiations," ITAR-Tass quoted Alexeyev as saying after a meeting with his North Korean counterpart.
If the Russian report is confirmed, it could signify a major breakthrough in efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Beijing and Moscow initially objected to the wide scope of financial sanctions and the provision authorizing the inspection of cargo going in and out of North Korea. There is concern among some diplomats that boarding North Korean ships could lead to a military response from the North.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said China still had a concern about the provision authorizing cargo inspections. But he said he was confident it would be solved before Saturday's vote.
The draft resolution "calls upon all members to inspect North Korean ships on their territory and it also asks membership to cooperate," de La Sabliere said. "So through cooperation it's possible to have a very good control and monitoring."
Bolton said the United States expects most inspections to take place in port, "but there are circumstances in which ships can be boarded at sea ... and we and others have undertaken such boardings," which are authorized under an international agreement to prevent weapons proliferation.
Asked why luxury goods were banned, Bolton said, "I think the North Korean population has been losing average height and weight over the years and maybe this will be a little diet for Kim Jong Il," North Korea's leader.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, asked earlier whether Beijing was prepared to go along with the ban, said: "I don't know what luxury goods means, because luxury goods can mean many things for different people ... if they don't have it."
The United States and other nations trying to persuade the North to give up its atomic program continued a flurry of high-level diplomatic visits. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly planned a trip next week to Asia; Russia sent an envoy to Pyongyang; and the presidents of China and South Korea — the North's main sources of trade and aid — met in Beijing to discuss the proposed resolution.
President Bush, Rice and other top U.S. officials met Thursday with a Chinese envoy, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan.
"I think the Chinese clearly understand the gravity of the situation," Rice said later. "They clearly understand that the North Koreans doing this have made the environment much less stable, much less secure."
Tang was expected to meet with Russia's defense minister on Saturday, a day after Russia sent a high-level envoy to Pyongyang for consultations — the first known high-level visit to North Korea since its claimed nuclear test.
The Chinese and South Korean leaders met to discuss the resolution, agreeing to "support appropriate sanctions that are necessary for realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Song Min-soon, Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's security adviser.
Rice will visit Japan for two days beginning Wednesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday. Kyodo News agency reported that she is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso during her stay in Japan.
Meanwhile, North Korean ships loaded their final cargo of secondhand bicycles and household appliances in Sakaiminato, a Japanese port city a short journey from the North, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet agreed to ban trade with the communist state. The sanctions also include a six-month ban on travel to Japan by all North Korean government officials.
The strong response came even though North Korea's claimed test has not yet been confirmed, and despite warnings from the North that it would take strong "countermeasures" if Japan went ahead with the new sanctions. Tokyo already had limited sanctions against North Korea, imposed after the North test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula in July.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.