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Bolton urges 'swift' U.N. action on North Korea

Story Highlights

• NEW: U.S. envoy John Bolton wants a U.N. resolution against N. Korea by Friday.
NEW: Bolton complains Russia wants to delay Security Council vote till next week
NEW: Condoleezza Rice says China understands "the gravity of the situation"
• China's Foreign Ministry says punishment might not contribute to peace
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Despite concerns from China and Russia for more diplomacy, the United States is pushing the U.N. Security Council to pass a strong resolution against North Korea this week after Pyongyang's reported nuclear test Monday.

"I think that the council should try to respond to a nuclear test within the same week that the test occurred," John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart. "I don't think that's too much to ask for."

The Security Council is mulling over the contents of a draft resolution proposed by the United States.

The sanctions called for in the draft reportedly have been toned down for China and Russia. Both are veto-wielding members of the council and have opposed leveling sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

China, North Korea's closest ally, on Thursday softened its tone against the reclusive communist state, saying "punishment is not the purpose" for possible U.N. sanctions.

"The measures that should be taken should be conducive to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, peace and stability on the peninsula, and the resumption of six-party talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

The statement contrasted with comments made by China's ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang claimed it had carried out the underground test. (Watch Chinese officials express exasperation over the reported test -- 2:31 Video)

"There has to be some punitive actions [against North Korea], but also I think these actions have to be appropriate, so we will discuss with others," envoy Wang Guangya said then. (Watch how North Korea risks cutting off its money flow -- 2:14 Video)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believed the Chinese understood "the gravity of the situation."

"They clearly understand that the North Koreans, in doing this, have made the environment much less stable, much less secure," said Rice, who met with Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan earlier Thursday.

"I believe we'll get a very good resolution that will demonstrate to the North Koreans that the international community is very much united in its condemnation of this test that was carried out a couple of days ago."

Russia wants to delay vote

Bolton also accused Russia of dragging its feet by asking the council to wait until Monday after several weekend meetings before voting on the draft resolution.

"We're certainly very much in favor of keeping all the diplomatic channels open, but we also want swift action," Bolton said. "We shouldn't allow meetings and more meetings and more meetings and more meetings to be an excuse for inaction."

A copy of a revised five-page draft resolution obtained by Reuters shows softer language on cargo inspections, a nod to concerns voiced by Russia and China. The resolution also requires countries to freeze North Korean assets related to weapons or missile programs, according to Reuters. (Full story)

Additionally, the resolution would impose a travel ban on people who support Pyongyang's weapons programs, Reuters reported.

One of the sticking points, however, was whether a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter would open the door for military action if the resolution goes unheeded.

Bolton rejects that contention, saying another resolution would be needed to authorize military action.

"It is simply incorrect to say that the phrase 'acting under Chapter 7,' which is a traditional way the Security Council expresses its intention to have a binding resolution ... somehow authorizes the use of force," he said.

China seeks more 'diplomatic efforts'

Wang, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, said one of his concerns was making sure the resolution provided "more room for diplomatic efforts that might put an end to the crisis that we face."

"In the beginning, China felt that this text should be balanced, especially to add a few more paragraphs encouraging diplomatic efforts," Wang said. "I see that now in the current draft there has been a few paragraphs that take into account the Chinese consideration. I welcome that."

China has called on the United States to change its opposition to direct negotiations with North Korea. The Bush administration has refused one-on-one discussions, insisting on a return to six-party talks that include China, Russia, South Korea and Japan to defuse nuclear tensions.

"If the two parties can strengthen their dialogue and consultation, this will help strengthen their understanding and mutual trust, narrow down their differences and this will have a positive role," said Liu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

But President Bush hasn't budged from his opposition to bilateral talks, which he said did not work in the past and would not be the best strategy for the United States. (Full story)

North Korea on Wednesday said it would consider any increased pressure from the United States as "a declaration of a war," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to North Korea's state-run news agency, KCNA.

CNN's Richard Roth and Susie Xu contributed to this report.


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