US, China agree on North Korea sanctions: UN Diplomats

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States and China have reached agreement on a new draft sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test, UN diplomats said late on Monday.

The UN Security Council announced late on Monday evening that it will hold closed consultations on North Korea and non-proliferation at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Tuesday. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made, said the United States is expected to circulate a draft resolution to the full council at the meeting. Council members are then expected to send the draft to their capitals for review.

All 15 council members approved a press statement condemning Pyongyang's nuclear test and pledging further action hours after North Korea carried out its third atomic blast on Feb. 12.

The swift and unanimous response from the UN's most powerful body sets the stage for a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang.

For the last three weeks, the US, a close ally of South Korea and Japan, has been negotiating the text of a new resolution with China, North Korea's closest ally.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country holds the council presidency this month, told a news conference on Monday that a resolution on North Korea might be approved in March though the text had not yet been circulated.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing refused to give any details about the deal at her daily media briefing, but indicated China was concerned about Pyongyang's behaviour.

"We have said here many times that China supports the UN Security Council in reacting moderately and explicitly objects to North Korea's nuclear test," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

In Seoul, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that "considerable progress" has been made in the Security Council on how to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test. However, spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters he could not disclose any details of the draft resolution because no final agreement has been reached.