China May Be Wild Card in N. Korea Drama UN Security Council to Weigh Sanctions against Pyongyang over Nuclear Program

Article excerpt

THIS week, the United States and its allies begin what is likely to be a slow yet inexorable move toward economic sanctions on North Korea.

The UN Security Council could begin discussions about possible censure of Pyongyang over its clandestine nuclear program as early as today. President Clinton said over the weekend that he expects the United Nations eventually to approve some sort of North Korea strictures.

But China remains a wild card in the equation. As a Security Council member, Beijing could veto any action, and despite hints that Chinese officials are unhappy with their North Korean ally, they continue to insist publicly that sanctions won't solve anything. Starting with symbols

The US might skirt this barrier by proposing to begin with basically symbolic UN measures. Or it could simply act outside the UN framework in concert with Japan, South Korea, and other willing nations.

"We are going to proceed firmly on this," Mr. Clinton said in a TV appearance. "I hope and believe the UN will do it. If it doesn't, then we'll look at who else wants to do it and what else we can do."

Japan has drawn up a draft list of possible bilateral actions against North Korea. This includes restrictions on cash transfers to North Korea from North Korean nationals living in Japan; a ban on Japanese-North Korean trade; and restrictions on cultural, scientific, and sports exchanges between the two nations.

Yet Japanese Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa told the US last week that Japan favors an initial UN resolution containing a direct warning to North Korea before taking any punitive actions. …