Bush Rebukes North Korea; U.S. Seeks New U.N. Sanctions
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President Bush at the White House Monday just before his statement on
North Korea. He called the reported nuclear test a “provocative act.”
Oct. 9 — The United States proposed tough new United Nations sanctions
on North Korea
on Monday after its reported test of a nuclear device, and President
Bush warned the North that he considered its activity a potential
threat to American national security.
The North Korean Challenge
- Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance (From Arms
Statement on North Korea
(October 9, 2006)
and Answers: North Korea’s Nuclear Program
(October 9, 2006)
At an emergency meeting of the United Nations
the United States pressed for international inspections of all cargo
moving into and out of North Korea to detect weapons-related material,
and a ban on all trading in military goods and services with the
At the White House, President Bush called the
Korean test “a threat to international peace and security” and
condemned it as a “provocative act.”
But Russia and China, which
have veto power and have consistently opposed tough sanctions, did not
signal that they were ready to go along with the American proposal.
Britain, France and Japan said they were also pressing for strong
sanctions, which the Council is expected to debate in the coming days.
Coming just a month before the November
elections, North Korea’s
reported test on Monday morning had immediate political ramifications. Democrats
were already using their campaigns to argue that the Iraq war had made
the United States less secure by diverting attention away from threats
like North Korea; now they are using the North’s claim to hammer away
at their theme.
Mr. Bush also issued a pointed, albeit
worded, warning to the North not to export any nuclear technology it
might have. In the past, North Korea has sold its weapons systems to
“The transfer of nuclear weapons or material
by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a
grave threat to the United States,” Mr. Bush said. “And we would hold
North Korea fully accountable of the consequences of such action.”
The president has not used the phrase “grave
threat” in the past with
respect to North Korea, and analysts interpreted the remark as a signal
that the White House was, in effect, stating new boundaries for what it
would accept from the North, given that diplomacy has not worked.
“He has finally drawn a very clear red line,
which is essentially: we
know you have nukes, don’t even think about proliferating,” said Mike
Chinoy, an expert on Korean security at the Pacific Council on
International Policy, a research institution in Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of always been the unspoken
administration red line,” Mr.
Chinoy said, “because the reality is that, whatever the harshness of
their rhetoric, the Bush administration has not been able to actually
stop North Korea from staging this nuclear breakout.”
Party strategists quickly circulated a “talking points” memorandum to
Democratic candidates, urging them to cast the reported North Korean
nuclear test as “a colossal foreign policy failure of the Bush
administration.” Several picked up on that theme.
McCaskill, a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Missouri,
convened a previously scheduled conference call with Richard
Ben-Veniste, a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11
attacks, and used it to raise the issue of North Korea. Representative
Harold E. Ford Jr., the Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee,
issued a statement to reporters, as did Senator Robert Menendez, the
New Jersey Democrat in a tough re-election fight.
nuclear test by North Korea confirms our worst fears and illustrates
just how much the Bush administration’s incompetence has endangered our
nation,” Mr. Menendez said in the statement, adding, “While George Bush
bogged our military down to topple a regime that had no weapons of mass
destruction, a brutal dictator in North Korea has strengthened a
nuclear arsenal that has the potential to threaten the West Coast of
the United States.”
Republicans were more
muted in their reactions; Senator Mitch McConnell
of Kentucky, the Republican whip, issued a brief statement calling
North Korea’s claim a “confrontational move designed only to
destabilize the region.”
White House officials insisted that
despite the talk of sanctions at the United Nations, the
administration’s goal remains persuading North Korea to return to the
six-nation talks and give up its nuclear program. Those negotiations
have dragged on for more than two years with no substantive results,
and North Korea left them 13 months ago.
Warren Hoge reported from the
United Nations, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Washington.