China for prudent measures

  • Crackdown on North Korea begins
  • Russian envoy in Seoul

    SEOUL: A global crackdown on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme began on Sunday with countries divided over how to enforce U.N. sanctions in a foreboding sign that imposing the punitive measures may not be easy.

    Japan and Australia, staunch North Korea critics, prepared harsher penalties against the Communist regime, South Korea was mum on details, and China, a major source of leverage over Pyongyang, refused to partake in certain measures.

    The divergent response foreshadows what analysts predict will be a rocky road toward enforcing the crackdown imposed on Saturday by the U.N. Security Council to penalise North Korea for what it said was its first-ever atomic bomb test last week.

    Military action

    The Security Council's unanimous decision ruled out military action against North Korea but calls on all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles.

    The measure also bans the import or export of material and equipment used to make nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. It orders all countries to freeze the assets and ban travel for anyone engaged in supporting the weapons programmes.

    Leading the charge was Japan, which said it was not only moving to enact the U.N. sanctions but also considering stricter measures of its own. Australia welcomed the sanctions as ``surprisingly tough,'' Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

    ``China strongly urges the countries concerned to adopt a prudent and responsible attitude in this regard and refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tensions,'' said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya.

    Russian nuclear envoy Alexander Alexeyev arrived in South Korea for meetings on the standoff. He visited North Korea last week, the first known senior foreign official to travel there since North Korea's October 9 test.

    Asked if he thought North Korea would return to the arms talks it boycotted since November, Mr. Alexeyev answered: ``I hope.'' AP