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US to seek rebuke at Security Council for nuclear test

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States circulated a new draft UN Security Council resolution on North Korea last night that softens language on cargo inspections and financial sanctions to try to get Russian and Chinese support.

The draft, obtained by the Associated Press, would impose a travel ban on people supporting North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile, and other weapons-related programs.

It does not include Japanese demands to bar North Korean ships and aircraft from ports and airports around the world in response to North Korea's claimed nuclear test Monday. That proposal would likely face strong opposition by Russia and China, which have vetoes on the council.

A previous US draft called on all states to undertake and facilitate inspection of cargo to and from North Korea to ensure compliance with sanctions. The new draft would allow states to inspect cargo ``as necessary."

The latest US proposal also drops a call to freeze assets from other ``illicit activities such as those related to counterfeiting, money-laundering or narcotics."

The United States hopes the new resolution will pass tomorrow, said John Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations.

Like the original draft circulated on Monday, the new draft would condemn the test, demand that North Korea immediately return to six-nation disarmament talks without precondition, and impose sanctions for Pyongyang's ``flagrant disregard" of the council's appeal.

It adds new language demanding that North Korea ``not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile."

The new draft remains under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which includes a range of measures to deal with threats to international peace, from breaking diplomatic relations to imposing naval blockades and taking military action.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya reiterated yesterday that sanctions should be limited to the nonmilitary measures authorized under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which include economic penalties, breaking diplomatic relations, or banning air travel.

The revised US draft makes no mention of Article 41, and maintains some military sanctions.

North Korea, meanwhile, threatened more nuclear tests and said it would consider tough sanctions an act of war, stoking tensions in an already jittery Asia.

Unfazed by the latest threats, Japan banned all North Korean imports -- such as clams and mushrooms -- and barred the North's ships from its ports.

South Korea said it was making sure its troops were prepared for atomic warfare and said it may bolster its conventional forces as well. The top US general in the South said American soldiers were poised to repel any attack.

``I would urge the North Korean authorities not to escalate the situation any further," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said. ``We already have an extremely difficult situation."

The leaders of China and South Korea, the only countries with any potential sway over North Korea, will meet tomorrow.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Chinese President Hu Jintao have both seen their policies of engagement with the North shaken by Pyongyang's announcement on its nuclear test, and both are reassessing their approach, Reuters news service reported.

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