Japan Presses for Vote on N. Korea Resolution

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Japan insisted Friday on a U.N. Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against North Korea for its recent missile tests as diplomats scrambled to unify competing proposals.

South Korea said it was dispatching envoys to China, Japan and the United States to coordinate the response to the crisis, sparked on July 5 when the North test-launched seven missiles off its eastern coast. At a summit in Russia this weekend, the Group of Eight major industrialized nations were expected to issue a statement demanding North Korea refrain from any more launches, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

U.N. ambassadors from Japan and the five veto-wielding Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — were set for talks Friday, a day after they met three times to discuss a resolution.

Japan has proposed a resolution — backed by the U.S., Britain and France — that would ban North Korean missile tests and prevent the country from acquiring or exporting missiles, related technology, weapons of mass destruction or their components.

The resolution calls the recent missile launches a threat to international peace and security and authorizes restrictions that could be militarily enforced.

CountryWatch: North Korea

China and Russia have introduced a rival resolution that "strongly deplores" the missile launches and calls on Pyongyang to re-establish a moratorium on testing but drops mandatory sanctions, military action and the determination that the launches threatened international peace.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, speaking in Jordan during a tour of Middle Eastern countries, said Japan was hoping for a U.N. resolution before the G-8 summit this weekend.

Of the criticism from Russia and China, he said, "I don't think there would be such a response if our message is understood properly."

China has brushed off the push for speedy action, saying the Security Council needs more time. In New York, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he had instructions to veto the Japanese draft proposal and hoped Tokyo would be flexible.

"There are still some differences, but I think we have made some progress," he said after a meeting Thursday evening.

The State Department said diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to return to deadlocked six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, where the missile issue could be raised, were shifting away from Asia to the United Nations.

Chinese officials visiting Pyongyang apparently "haven't heard anything to indicate that the North Koreans have come around to making a positive response to the rest of the world," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung will head to China on Saturday for talks with Beijing's top nuclear negotiator, Wu Dawei, who was to return home that day from Pyongyang. South Korea's main nuclear negotiator, Chun Young-woo, will travel next week to Washington and Tokyo.

Closing off another possible avenue for diplomacy, the North pulled out Thursday from high-level talks with South Korea after Seoul refused to discuss any aid while Pyongyang abstains from the nuclear negotiations.

McCormack called Pyongyang's withdrawal "another example of North Korea rejecting the entreaties of their neighbors to engage in constructive behavior."

Still, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun pledged Friday to continue engaging the communist regime, saying North Korea wouldn't behave wrongly if its insecurity was resolved through dialogue.

The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, repeated Washington's stance that it won't use force against the North. He said he expected a possible U.N. resolution to take into account the South's considerations.

The leaders at the G-8 summit will issue a statement this weekend "to note their strong concern about North Korea's missile launches for undermining peace and stability and to demand Pyongyang freeze further launches," Kyodo reported, citing unidentified Japanese government officials.

The statement may not mention North Korea by name, Kyodo said, but will be drafted with the country in mind to stress the need to block the international transfer of missile-making technology.