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North Korea In Defiance Against US Sanctions

Sanctions are Declaration of War

Associated Press | October 17, 2006

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Tuesday the United Nations effectively declared war on the country when it imposed sanctions for the North's nuclear test.

North Korea wants "peace but is not afraid of war," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The U.N. Security Council "resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war," the ministry said, calling the sanctions "a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward" North Korea.

The ministry warned that if anyone used the U.N. resolution to infringe on the country's sovereignty, North Korea "will deal merciless blows at him through strong actions."

The U.N. sanctions, approved Saturday, bans the sale of major arms to the North and orders the inspection of cargo to and from the country. It also calls for the freezing of assets of business supplying the North's nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

The North "will closely follow the future U.S. attitude and take corresponding measures," the statement said, without specifying what those measures would be.

Meanwhile, customs officials examined trucks at the North Korean border Monday as China complied with new U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear test. But China's U.N. ambassador indicated its inspectors will not board ships to search for suspicious equipment or material.

The United States began a new round of diplomacy in Asia to address divisions over how to impose the sanctions, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to arrive in Japan on Wednesday before traveling to South Korea and China.

The U.S. announced that air samples gathered last week contain radioactive materials confirming that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion, as it claimed.

China's support is key to whether the measures will have any impact on neighboring North Korea. Beijing's mixed response on implementing the sanctions, approved Saturday by a unanimous U.N. Security Council including China, demonstrates the difficulties U.S. diplomats will encounter as they tour the region.

China and Russia contend that interdicting ships might needlessly provoke the North and at the very least discourage it from returning to talks on its nuclear program - though the U.S. and Britain say most inspections of ships would be done at ports rather than on the high seas. Australia announced it was banning the North's ships from entering its ports, except in dire emergencies.

While China is angry over its communist ally's behavior and is loath to appear out of step with other powers, it has been reluctant to support or implement tough measures. The leadership is concerned that tightening the squeeze on Pyongyang might trigger a collapse of the North Korean regime, sending refugees streaming across the border.

In a sign of Beijing's wariness about refugees, construction of a massive concrete and barbed wire fence along parts of its 880-mile border with the North has picked up in recent days. Scores of soldiers have arrived in communities along the banks of the Yalu River, up from Dandong, over the past week to erect the barrier, farmers and visitors to the area said.

"The move is mainly aimed at North Korean defectors," said Professor Kim Woo-jun at the Institute of East and West Studies in Seoul, South Korea. "As the U.N. sanctions are enforced ... the number of defectors are likely to increase as the regime can't take care of its people."

The sanctions ban trade with the North in major weapons and materials that could be used in its ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs. They call for all countries to inspect cargo to and from North Korea to enforce the prohibition, "as necessary," and consistent with each nation's laws.

In some areas of the border, the Chinese seem to have stepped up inspections, though elsewhere a police officer said nothing had changed and inspections were continuing as usual.

At a border-crossing post in the Chinese city of Dandong, about 30 Chinese trucks were seen being checked on Monday morning while 50 empty North Korean trucks waited in line to enter China to pick up cargo.

Customs officers opened the back of each truck and looked at its cargo as it rolled up, though they didn't open individual boxes or bags. By contrast, reporters who visited the border post last week didn't see inspectors open any trucks.

In the afternoon, the officers repeated the process as loaded North Korean trucks returned home. They climbed into the back of the vehicles, but observers couldn't see whether they opened any containers.

Trading companies in Dandong, at the western end of the border, and in Tumen, near the eastern end, said the sanctions were not affecting shipments.

"Today, we just sent a batch of agricultural tools to North Korea by truck," said Huang Kelin, manager of Wanshida Trading Co., a Dandong-based firm that has an office in Pyongyang.

At the Nanping crossing, in an eastern valley surrounded by mountains, inspectors were going through a standard regimen, looking at both cargo and passengers, a police officer said. "The inspections are routine and conducted by quarantine officials," said the officer, Li Canhao.

Chinese goods reach the North by road and rail, while oil is delivered mainly via pipeline. It wasn't immediately clear what China was doing to inspect rail shipments. A lone locomotive headed into North Korea on Monday afternoon, apparently to pull a cargo train back to China. The North also has a rail link to Russia in the east, though it wasn't clear how that was being policed.

China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, said his country would implement the Security Council resolution and inspect cargo from North Korea for illegal weapons and missiles, but he indicated Chinese inspectors would not board ships.

He noted that inspections are not mandatory under the resolution, intended to punish the North for its Oct. 9 nuclear test.

"This is a resolution we have to implement," Wang told reporters at the U.N. 'The question was raised whether China will do inspections. Inspections yes, but inspection is different then interdiction and interception. I think different countries will do it different ways."

Wang's remarks represented a change from those he made Saturday after joining the council in voting to impose tough sanctions on North Korea for its Oct. 9 nuclear test. He initially objected to China's conducting inspections because of concerns that cargo checks would raise tensions with the North rather than persuade Pyongyang to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, when asked about interdicting ships, said Monday that "one has to be very careful about it."

"When you go into inspection and things like that, cargo, one has to be very careful to avoid any kind of semblance of provocation," Churkin said.

North Korea's total foreign trade was less than $4 billion last year, though it is growing quickly, according to Chinese and South Korean figures. China accounted for a major portion of that trade, with $1.7 billion in exports and $500 million in imports, according to the Commerce Ministry in Beijing. China also provides up to 90 percent of the North's oil.

There are also questions about how strictly South Korea will enforce the U.N. resolution. The South has significant trade relations with North Korea and its citizens worry about a conventional attack by their unpredictable neighbor.

North Korea's No. 2 ranking leader, Kim Yong Nam, defiantly said the regime would strengthen its military and "achieve a final victory in the historic standoff with the U.S."

The North found a sympathetic ear in Iran, which has also been condemned for its nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday rejected the American-initiated measures and accused the U.S. of using the U.N. Security Council as a "weapon to impose its hegemony."

In Washington, Rice warned that U.N. sanctions on North Korea should also be seen by Iran as a strong signal to abandon its nuclear ambitions or face a rebuke from a united international community.

"The Iranian government is watching," she said. "It can now see that the international community will respond" to efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.