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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Monday, October 16, 2006

Air Samples Confirm D.P.R.K. Test; U.N. Imposes Sanctions

The United States today confirmed that the North Korean test explosion last week involved a nuclear device.

“Analysis of air samples collected on Oct. 11, 2006, detected radioactive debris which confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of P’unggye on Oct. 9, 2006. The explosion yield was less than a kiloton,” according to a statement from the Office of the National Intelligence Director (Office of the National Intelligence Director release, Oct. 16).

The sample containing the radioactive particles was reportedly taken Tuesday over the Sea of Japan by a U.S. WC-135 aircraft, the Associated Press reported.

The low-kiloton strength of the blast throw further doubt on Pyongyang’s claims that its test was successful.

“The betting is that this was an attempt at a nuclear test that failed,” a senior Bush administration official said last week. “We don’t think they were trying to fake a nuclear test, but it may have been a nuclear fizzle” (Burns/Gearan, Associated Press I/RedOrbit, Oct. 13).
U.N. Sanctions

The U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously Saturday on a set of sanctions against North Korea, the New York Times reported.

The resolution prohibits the sale or transfer of WMD material to North Korea, along with preventing weapons officials in Pyongyang from traveling overseas or accessing assets outside their country.

It allows countries to inspect cargo entering or exiting the country, though China quickly announced that it would not conduct such inspections. The resolution also does not authorize use of military force to stop ships sailing in international waters.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Pak Gil Yon was present for the vote and blasted the decision. Pyongyang “totally rejected” the resolution, he said, adding that further U.S. pressure would be considered an act of war and would lead North Korea to take “critical countermeasures.” He then stormed out of the room (Warren Hoge, New York Times I, Oct. 15).

The efficacy of the sanctions were in question yesterday, given China’s reluctance to conduct inspections of material heading into North Korea and South Korea’s intention to maintain economic projects with the Stalinist state, the Times reported (Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times II, Oct. 16).

U.S. officials indicated yesterday they would push Beijing, Pyongyang’s main trading partner, to follow through on the inspections, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“China has got a heavy responsibility here,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

“I’m quite certain that China is going to live up to its responsibilities,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 16).

Today, Chinese officials were conducting inspections of trucks heading into North Korea along the countries’ 880-mile border and had boosted work on a border fence, AP reported.

“The inspections are routine and conducted by quarantine officials,” said an officer at one crossing.

Reporters at the border city of Dandong said they saw officials open trucks for inspection. They had not seen such efforts last week, AP reported.

Officials in Beijing would not say whether the resolution prompted the inspections.

Japan, which on Friday levied unilateral sanctions against North Korea, is considering additional penalties, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Australia also plans to bar all North Korean ships from its ports except in the event of a major emergency.

“I think that will help Australia make a quite clear contribution to the United Nations sanctions regime,” said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (William Foreman, Associated Press II/Yahoo!News, Oct. 16).

Analysts today questioned the impact the sanctions barring trade in weapons and luxury goods would have on North Korea’s leaders, Reuters reported.

“The regime has shown it doesn’t mind if its people feel the pain,” said a diplomat in Seoul.

“North Korea is already very familiar with poverty,” said former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. “The country can also get support, at least in order to survive, from countries such as China.”

The sanctions, though, might prompt Pyongyang to conduct another nuclear test, analysts said (Reuters/New York Times, Oct. 16).
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