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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 05:44 GMT
China warns UN over N Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il with his military officials
The Communist regime says the IAEA is biased
China has warned the UN Security Council against getting involved in the North Korean nuclear crisis.

"The UN Security Council's involvement at this stage might not necessarily contribute to the settlement of the issue," said China's ambassador to the UN, Zhang Yan.

The UN Security Council's involvement at this stage might not necessarily contribute to the settlement of the issue

Zhang Yan
China's UN ambassador
He was speaking in Vienna after the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), took the dramatic step of declaring the North in breach of UN nuclear safeguards and referring it to the Security Council.

Japan has appealed to the North to re-open talks with the IAEA and South Korea called on it to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The IAEA's move raises the possibility of economic or political sanctions being imposed - a development Pyongyang has said would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

The Communist regime has still to react officially to the announcement.

'Dialogue of equals'

China backed the decision by the IAEA's 35-country board but its ambassador urged "dialogue" on Thursday.

"The only correct and effective approach... is through constructive dialogue and consultations on the basis of equality, especially the sincere and pragmatic dialogue directly among the parties concerned," he said.

Satellite photo of Yongbyon power plant
North Korea's Yongbyon power plant has been reactivated
He did not name the United States but China has previously called for Washington, which withdrew aid to North Korea last year over its continuing nuclear programme, to speak directly to Pyongyang.

Washington sees China as one of the few states with influence in North Korea and Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday that it was in Beijing's interests to use its "leverage".

The Japanese Government has called on the North to "immediately re-open talks with the IAEA and quickly make moves towards a rapid and verifiable dismantling of its nuclear weapons programme".

Its top spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, said the issue of sanctions would depend on "how North Korea thinks and deals with the current situation".

'Chronic offender'

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, said North Korea had been in "chronic non-compliance since 1993".

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
16 Oct: US announces that N Korea has acknowledged secret nuclear programme
14 Nov: US halts oil shipments to N Korea
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors forced to leave North Korea
10 Jan: N Korea pulls out of anti-nuclear treaty
28 Jan: President Bush urges the "oppressive" N Korean regime to give up its nuclear ambitions
12 Feb: IAEA refers issue to Security Council

The director of America's CIA, George Tenet, has warned that the North might already be capable of hitting the west coast of the United States with a nuclear missile and supports sanctions.

But China's reluctance to impose sanctions is shared by the European Union as well as Japan and South Korea.

Russia - a veto-holding member of the Security Council and a key North Korean ally - abstained on the IAEA vote saying it believed that involving the Security Council would be "premature and counter-productive".

But, under its charter, the IAEA must report any violations of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to the Security Council.

IAEA dismissed

North Korea said before Wednesday's decision that it was not interested in whether it was referred to the Security Council by the IAEA.

A North Korean spokesman told the BBC that the IAEA meeting was not impartial, and that it reflected only the American position in the stand-off over Pyongyang's nuclear activities.

The North Korean counsellor to the IAEA, Son Mun-san, reiterated that the only way forward was for Washington to hold direct talks with Pyongyang.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Most people believe sanctions would be counter-productive"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

13 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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