North Korean Nukes: No Action at Security Council but Warning from US

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - As expected, Wednesday's closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council failed to reach agreement on a statement regarding the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Nonetheless, although U.S. officials repeated the administration's desire for a diplomatic solution to the standoff, Wednesday also brought a clear U.S. warning for North Korea and other rogue states seeking non-conventional weapons capability.

Speaking in Rome after talks with Vatican officials, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton drew the attention of North Korea, Iran and Syria - in particular - to developments in Iraq.

"We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq, that a pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interests," he said at an embassy press conference.

At the Security Council meeting - held two full months after North Korea's conduct was referred to the body by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - little was achieved.

"Members of the Council expressed their concern, and the Council will continue to follow up developments," said Aguilar Zinser, Mexican ambassador to the U.N., whose country holds the presidency of the 15-member body. "There is nothing else to add."

The permanent members are divided over how to tackle North Korea's decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restart frozen nuclear programs.

Pyongyang's allies, China and Russia, did not even want the matter discussed by the Council, let alone any U.N. condemnation - as requested by the U.S. - or other action.

North Korea has been demanding bilateral talks with the U.S.; Washington wants the crisis dealt with multilaterally, with U.N. involvement and - especially - for countries in northeast Asia to persuade North Korea to change course.

Some recent movement suggested six-way talks could take place, bringing the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and North and South Korea together, with a separate U.S.-North Korean meeting on the sidelines.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday that the likeliest next step should be "to find a format that will be acceptable to both parties and bring them to the table to talk."

After the unsuccessful meeting in New York, John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said it was necessary not only to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but also to have it "accept a reliable verification regime."

Pyongyang late last year removed IAEA surveillance cameras from a mothballed nuclear facility, kicked out IAEA nuclear monitors and restarted the reactor.

Experts have expected the North Koreans to take further steps to increase pressure on the U.S., including possibly test-firing a long-range ballistic missile or restarting the reprocessing of spent fuel rods to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Negroponte warned Pyongyang against taking "further escalatory steps."

He also expressed the hope that North Korea would "not reject diplomatic efforts to address its nuclear program."

But the U.S. ambassador said the possibility of action by the Council in the future had not been ruled out.

"We haven't taken any option off the table," he said.

See Earlier Story:

Security Council Unlikely to Reach Consensus on North Korea (Apr. 9, 2003)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow