UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has put off a response to North Korea’s threatened nuclear test until Wednesday, with the United States, France and China divided on the best way to react.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton raised North Korea’s announcement that it will conduct a test during a council meeting Tuesday.
After a brief discussion, members decided to meet Wednesday morning to decide how to deal with it.
Bolton said he urged members to engage in "preventive diplomacy" and hold a brainstorming session "to come up not just with a knee jerk reaction … but to develop a coherent strategy to convince them that it’s not in their interest to engage in nuclear testing."
"That’s the reason why, contrary to the normal practice, there’s no press statement today" which would likely express "concern" or "deep concern" at North Korea’s announcement, he said.
"But issuing a piece of paper is not the same as having a policy, nor is it the same as a coherent, well thought out program of preventive diplomacy."
France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere disagreed, saying he thinks it’s important "that the council reacts and reacts swiftly and with a strong message."
"We also have to define a strategy and discuss how the council has to react, but first we must issue a statement," he said.
North Korea’s closest ally, China. meanwhile, urged Pyongyang to act with calm and restraint.
China "hopes that the North Korean side will keep calm and restrained on the nuclear test issue," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.
Liu expressed hope all parties to the dispute would reach a negotiated settlement, "rather than adopt actions that intensify tensions," Xinhua said.
And South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called for a "cool-headed and stern" response to North Korea’s threat, his office said. (Full story)
Earlier, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin noted the call for a brainstorming session.
"I emphasized that if we do a brainstorming, we should (be) having focus on the first part of that term," he said. "So let us hope that this is going to be the mood in which the international community is going to deal with the subject."
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, who holds the council presidency this month, said his government was "very seriously concerned" about the announcement, especially because of its proximity to North Korea.
Japan strongly urged North Korea to refrain from any testing, which if conducted "would pose a serious threat to international peace and security and would constitute moreover a grave threat to nonproliferation," he said.
Oshima said Japan wanted the Security Council "to consider this promptly" and come up with "a swift, appropriate, firm response."
"I expect that this matter is going to be dealt with somehow in the Security Council," he said.
But Oshima said it was too early to speculate on what the council will do.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged North Korea’s leadership "to exercise utmost restraint," observe the current moratorium on nuclear testing, and return to the six-party talks, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
A nuclear test "would further aggravate tensions in the region" and bring universal international condemnation, Dujarric said, and it would not help North Korea strengthen its security.
Both Bolton and Oshima noted the council’s strong resolution in July after a series of North Korean missile launches. It imposed limited sanctions on North Korea and demanded that the reclusive communist nation suspend its ballistic missile program — a demand the North immediately rejected.
The resolution already states that North Korea should not engage in any further provocative acts, that it should rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and resume its participation in the six-party talks, Bolton noted.
"The real question is whether we have an approach that will be value-added in terms of dissuading the North Koreans from conducting this test which they’ve threatened this morning," he said.
"Obviously, the ballistic missiles, if made with nuclear weapons, would be a very grave threat to international peace and security," Bolton said.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a North Korean nuclear test would be "a very provocative act" and the U.S. would have to assess its options if Pyongyang carries out its threat.
North Korea, citing American belligerence and pressure, said Tuesday it would conduct a nuclear test.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry issued the comment in a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, the communist country’s official news agency.
"The field of scientific research of the DPRK (North Korea’s official name) will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," the statement said. (Watch why North Korea may want to test a nuclear bomb — 3:37)
A date and time for the test was not issued.