Rice Heads to Asia To Rally Support for Sanctions on North Korea

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading to Asia to rally regional support for tough U.N. sanctions against North Korea, but she says the United States remains ready to sit down to Six-Party Talks without any preconditions.

During a press briefing October 16, Rice said she would be visiting Seoul (South Korea), Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow October 17-22 to discuss strategies for implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. (See related article.)

Rice said that Resolution 1718 contains “unprecedented sanctions,” but noted countries must work together to advance common goals.

“Every country in the region,” she said, “must share the burdens as well as the benefits of our common security.”

Specifically, the resolution bans trade with North Korea on all materials with direct or dual use applications for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), prohibits nations from providing North Korea any assistance in developing or using WMD and freezes all funds and economic resources designated by the Security Council’s sanctions committee as being connected with Pyongyang’s WMD programs.

The resolution also calls on countries to cooperate in preventing trafficking of WMD materials by inspecting cargo to and from North Korea and prohibits the sale of luxury goods. Humanitarian goods and services are exempt from the sanctions. (See related article.)

Pyongyang incited global condemnation when it tested a nuclear device October 9.  The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed October 16 that air samples collected October 11, two days after North Korea reported it had conducted an underground nuclear explosion, contain radioactive debris. (See related article.)

North Korea also tested ballistic missiles July 4. (See related article.)

Rice said the steps the world takes in countering North Korea’s recalcitrance would also send a message to Iran, which is pursuing its own nuclear weapons program.

“The Iranian government is watching and it can now see that the international community will respond to threats from nuclear proliferation,” Rice said.  “I expect the Security Council to begin work this week on an Iran sanctions resolution so the Iranian government should consider the course that it is on, which could lead simply to further isolation.

The secretary acknowledged that the world’s nonproliferation regime is “strained,” but added that it is “not broken.”

Rice discounted reports that China may be unwilling to take harsh measures against Pyongyang.  “I am not concerned that the Chinese are going to turn their backs on their obligations,” she said.  “I don’t think they would have voted for a resolution that they did not intend to carry through on.”

She also noted that Japan and Australia already have imposed additional sanctions against North Korea above and beyond those spelled out in Resolution 1718.

The Secretary of State held out the possibility that Pyongyang could avoid the additional suffering that the sanctions will impose on the nation if it returned to the Six-Party Talks that include South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.  On September 19, 2005, Pyongyang signed a declaration of principles in which it agreed to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (See related article.)

Rice pointed out that a number of countries have agreed to abandon their nuclear weapons programs voluntarily and cited Libya and South Africa as examples.

While reiterating U.S. deterrent commitments to its allies in the region, Rice said the United States has no desire to increase tensions in response to North Korea’s intransigence.

“[N]o one has an interest in seeing the trade in dangerous materials or weapons of mass destruction,” the secretary said.

The United States, she said, will use Resolution 1718 as a “tool” and use it “wisely.”

“I do hear states saying that they want to be certain that it won't ratchet up conflict,” she said.  “We have no desire to ratchet up conflict either.  But we'll have some discussions on precisely how this will be carried out.”

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.