Associated France Press 8/7/2006
US, Japan press for unity to punish NKorea
by Park Chan-Kyong
SEOUL (AFP) - The United States and Japan vowed Saturday to punish North Korea for its missile tests, refusing to budge for China and Russia which are fighting at the United Nations to impose new sanctions.
The United States, however, also reached out to North Korea, saying it was ready to sit down one-on-one if the communist state returned to multinational talks on its nuclear and missile programs.
US envoy Christopher Hill, on a whirlwind tour after the missile launches, called for China to close ranks with Washington after receiving a lukewarm response in Beijing Friday.
"We had very good discussions with the Chinese and made very clear our very deep concerns about what is going on in the DPRK, and I called upon the Chinese to understand that we will be much more effective if we speak with one voice," Hill told reporters during talks in Seoul, his second stop.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was more blunt, pledging not to give in to Russia and China which hold veto power on the Security Council -- a privilege Tokyo has long sought in vain.
"We may amend the draft but we are firm on the binding resolution that includes sanctions," Aso said in a speech in the western city of Osaka. "Japan will not compromise. We will go all the way."
"It is unreasonable if the moods of the veto powers dominate diplomacy," he said.
The UN draft resolution backed by Washington and Tokyo would block the transfer of items to the North that could be used in missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
US President George W. Bush, however, did not publicly pitch for sanctions in a press conference Friday, calling only for unity to rebuke the North.
South Korea, which has been reconciling with its estranged neighbor, expressed caution over the US and Japanese move to punish Pyongyang, saying the focus should be on engaging the communist regime.
North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), on Wednesday fired seven missiles, including for the first time a long-range Taepodong-2 which quickly crashed into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
China, the North's neighbor and main ally, and Russia have both warned against further isolating Pyongyang, which is already under a barrage of sanctions.
Han Song-Ryol, the North's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has warned that UN sanctions would be an "act of war."
In an interview with South Korea's Yonhap news agency, Han said the North would return to talks if Washington lifted separate sanctions on a Macau bank accused of money-laundering and counterfeiting on its behalf.
The financial sanctions led North Korea in November to boycott six-nation disarmament talks, just two months after it agreed in general terms to give up its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid.
The United States on Saturday rejected the demand.
"To be very frank, I think this is not a time for so-called gestures of that kind," Hill said.
But he said he would be ready to meet North Korea separately if it returned to the six-nation talks, including a potential informal round Beijing is hoping to organize this month in the city of Shenyang.
"If there are six-party talks ... we will meet all the delegations. And we've always said that they will meet and we have always met the DPRK delegation in the six-party talks," Hill said.
"I just can't do it when they are boycotting the six-party talks," he said.
The United States has repeatedly met with the North bilaterally on the sidelines of six-way talks but refused demands to negotiate directly outside of the multinational framework.
Chun Yung-Woo, Hill's South Korean counterpart in the stalled talks, expressed hope that China's delegate, vice foreign minister Wu Dawei, could arrange the Shenyang talks when he travels to Pyongyang in the coming week.
South Korea on Friday suspended crucial food aid to North Korea in response to the missile tests. But it said it hoped to keep channels of communication open.
"It's time to focus on diplomacy rather than coercive measures," Chun said.