Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he hopes the U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution calling for sanctions on North Korea before the Group of Eight summit starts in St. Petersburg, Russia, this weekend.

The comments came after Japan and the United States agreed to delay a vote on the resolution Monday night, after China sent a diplomat to Pyongyang to persuade it to return to the six-party talks aimed at negotiating an end to North Korea’s nuclear arms program.

The six parties are Japan, the U.S., North and South Korea, China and Russia.

Asked if he hopes the council will vote for the resolution before the G8 summit, Koizumi told reporters: “Yes. It would be better for the council to vote early.”

“We have decided that we will wait and see the diplomatic efforts by China,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference earlier Tuesday.

“There is no change in our position of pursuing a resolution that includes sanctions,” Abe said.

Asked how long Japan would wait, Abe said it would be at least a few days before Japan pushed for a vote.

China on Monday proposed a nonbinding U.N. statement on the missile issue, with the wording aimed at urging North Korea to return to the six-nation talks.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters that a resolution imposing sanctions would “not calm down the situation,” and urged other members of the UNSC to be flexible.

“I hope China will understand well the concern of Japan and the international society. I hope it will appeal firmly to North Korea,” Abe said.

The last time North Korea was threatened with sanctions was in April 2005, when the U.S. threatened to go to the UNSC over the nuclear arms issue. Pyongyang responded by saying it would interpret sanctions as an act of war.

As for the North’s missile tests last week, those were widely recognized as implying Pyongyang will continue to be a threat unless the United States engages the country in bilateral diplomatic talks.

Koizumi said the plan to go for sanctions hadn’t changed, but there was a chance the wording of the resolution might be amended.

Koizumi left Tokyo on Tuesday for a tour of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territory before the G8 summit, which will start Saturday and run through Monday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Taro Aso also pushed to have the draft resolution adopted quickly, although he agreed to allow time for Chinese Vice Minister Wu Dawei and his delegation in North Korea to conduct negotiations.

“It is common sense that if this issue is not solved by the G8, it will be a nuisance for the host nation,” Aso said.

While the resolution invokes Chapter 7, which authorizes sanctions or even military action, China and Russia — both permanent members with veto power on the Security Council — are particularly opposed to such steps, and the Chinese proposal skips them altogether.

Information from AP, Kyodo added

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