• Kyodo

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Four of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have started consultations on a statement drafted by the United States denouncing North Korea for its nuclear weapons program, a U.N. source said Thursday.

The U.S. submitted the draft statement to the four other permanent members of the council Wednesday, and working-level consultations have started among the U.S., France, Russia and Britain, the sources said.

China, the fifth veto-wielding member, has not participated in the talks on the statement, which urges North Korea to fulfill its international obligations and abandon its nuclear development program in a verifiable and irreversible manner.

In Phnom Penh, diplomatic sources who participated in a just-ended meeting of foreign ministers from the Asia-Pacific region said the U.S. has also told Japan, South Korea and other relevant parties about its plan to push for consultations at the Security Council to produce a resolution condemning North Korea.

It remains to be seen whether the Security Council can produce a statement on North Korea, because China has been reluctant to discuss the issue.

According to the U.N. source, the draft says North Korea’s move to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty this year violates its international obligations. It also urges the North to rescind its decision to pull out of the NPT and to do what is required under the treaty.

The U.S. is apparently stepping up pressure on North Korea to suspend its nuclear development initiative by taking various steps, including threatening economic sanctions under a U.N. framework, while seeking to open multilateral dialogue involving Japan and South Korea on the North Korean nuclear standoff.

The Security Council has held no substantive talks on North Korea since April 9, when members in a closed session expressed concerns about its recent actions.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on his way to the Asia-Pacific foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia that Washington will decide “in the weeks ahead” whether it will seek any U.N. action on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Powell apparently was referring to the possibility of imposing economic sanctions on the North under the framework of the United Nations.

He called on North Korea to accept Japan and South Korea in talks on the nuclear crisis that were launched in April among the North, the U.S. and China.

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