Published January 13, 2015
Over Chinese and Russian objections, Japan introduced a draft Security Council resolution Friday that would impose sanctions on North Korea for its series of rocket test-launches and also order a halt to its development of ballistic missiles.
Backed by the United States, Britain and France, the resolution condemns the series of missile launches that the North conducted Wednesday after both its enemies and allies around the world warned it not to.
By putting forth the resolution, Japan risked a showdown with China and Russia, which have said they oppose sanctions or even passing a legally binding resolution on the issue. They want a more mild council statement that would chastize the North for the launches, and go no further.
"If this resolution is put to a vote, definitely there will be no unity in the Security Council," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said. He refused to say, however, if China would use its veto to sink the resolution or abstain.
Japan's Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said he wanted a vote on the draft Saturday if possible, yet he and other diplomats said negotiations continued on the resolution.
That raised the possibility that the decision to introduce the resolution was, in part, a negotiating tactic meant to win concessions from China and Russia.
Diplomats and U.S. officials also left the door open for more talks. One senior U.S. official said it was unlikely that the draft would be voted on over the weekend, because diplomats want to give China, the North's main ally, time to talk to Pyongyang.
Chinese officials said a delegation would go to Pyongyang early next week to discuss the issue.
"There is a hint that states want to see what the Chinese can do," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the strategy had not been made public.
North Korea set off an international furor Wednesday when it tested seven missiles, all of which landed in the Sea of Japan without causing any damage. The blasts apparently included a long-range Taepodong-2 — potentially capable of hitting the western United States. It broke up less than a minute after takeoff.
The draft introduced Friday was tougher than previous versions.
It would bar nations from procuring missiles or missile related "items, materials goods and technology" from North Korea, or transferring financial resources connected to the North's program. The North would also be barred from acquiring items that could be used to build missiles.
China and Russia fear that Security Council sanctions risk isolating North Korea further and spoiling any chance of resuming six-party talks on its nuclear program. Pyongyang has said sanctions from the Security Council would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
They could veto or abstain on the resolution. But even abstentions from the two nations risks weakening the message to North Korea, which leaders from around the world, including President Bush, don't want to do.
"What matters most of all is for Kim Jong Il to see the world speak with one voice," Bush said at a news conference in Chicago, referring to the North Korean leader. "That's the purpose, really."
One possible compromise would be for Japan to strip out the sanctions from the resolution, as long as the draft retains a condemnation and the order for the North to stop developing and testing ballistic missiles. It would also still be written under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which means it could be enforced militarily.
The draft followed a flurry of meetings among diplomats in New York. Japanese officials back home have also met with their counterparts from several nations to raise support for the draft.
Oshima said Japan was not willing to give up on Chapter 7 or the sanctions.
"It contains all elements that we believe are necessary at this point that a firm resolution of the council should contain," Oshima said. "We hope that it will be adopted when it is put to a vote with the broad unanimity of the council."