(AFP) - The UN Security Council was to resume consultations on a draft resolution that would condemn North Korea's missile launches and call for punitive measures, but Russia and China signaled their opposition.
Experts from the 15-member council on Wednesday pored over the draft, which was prepared by Japan and the United States with support from Britain, and were due to resume their work at 11:00 am (1500 GMT) Thursday, reports Trend.
A council diplomat said no agreement was reached and the experts would now report back to their capitals for detailed instructions on how to proceed.
The draft said UN members states should prevent the transfer of financial resources, items, goods and technology that could contribute to Pyongyang's missile "and other WMD" programs.
But its reference to punitive measures looked likely to be removed from the final text, amid stiff Chinese and Russian opposition to any form of sanctions against Pyongyang.
The draft condemns North Korea's test launch of seven missiles -- including a long-range Taepodong-2 capable of reaching US soil -- and called on the Stalinist state to immediately cease all missile testing, deployment and proliferation.
It also urged North Korea to immediately resume six-party talks involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea and to work toward speedy implementation of its September 19, 2005 pledge to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for offers of aid and security.
The draft cites Chapter Seven of the UN charter which is invoked in cases of threats to international peace and security and can authorize sanctions or even military action as a last resort.
During closed-door morning consultations, Japan pushed for a swift and strongly-worded resolution condemning the missile tests.
"We hope that the response of the council will be swift, strong, and resolute," Japan's UN ambassador Kenzo Oshima said after the morning consultations.
Tokyo has slammed the North Korean launches and threatened "stern measures," including possible economic sanctions.
While 13 council members spoke in favour of a resolution, Russia and China said they would prefer a non-binding council presidential statement.
Warning against "whipping up emotions too much," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council should keep its focus on the resumption of six-party talks.
"I think we should be clear-headed," said Churkin, who all but ruled out any possibility of a resolution that contained punitive measures against Pyongyang.
"In the discussion today, I didn't hear the word sanctions and I frankly do not expect that anybody will be proposing any sanctions," he said.
Earlier, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose country is a close ally of Pyongyang, said Beijing was concerned about the North Korean launches but stressed that any response should be "constructive to maintaining peace in that part of the world."
Beijing has refrained from condemning the missile tests, urging all sides to "remain calm and exercise restraint," with analysts saying China will not endorse a tough response.
US Ambassador John Bolton voiced strong support for a resolution and stressed that no council member had sought to defend Pyongyang's test-firing.
"I think that the tenor of that discussion shows how little support there is in the international community as a whole for these North Korean missile launches," he said.
Bolton also expressed hope that the council would reach agreement on the draft resolution as quickly as possible.
In Washington, meanwhile, Washington's envoy to talks on the crisis urged China to take a strong line with North Korea.
"We need China to be very, very firm with their neighbors and frankly with their long-term allies the North Koreans, on what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior," Christopher Hill, a top State Department official, told CNN International.
The White House said Hill would leave for Asia later in the day to consult US partners on Pyongyang's missile launches.
Pyongyang abandoned the six-party talks in November 2005 after Washington imposed financial sanctions for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering activities.
South Korea, meanwhile, was closely monitoring activity in North Korea for evidence of further missile tests.
"This is a judgement from the information we got through assessment at the top level," Suh Choo-Suk, senior security policy advisor for President Roh Moo-Hyun, told KBS radio when asked if North Korea planned further tests.
But the United States again ruled out direct talks and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said North Korea may have "miscalculated" if it thought its "brinksmanship" would divide the international community.
The European Union also condemned the launches, calling them "provocative" and saying they added to strain on regional stability.
Japan denounced the launches as a "grave problem," put its troops and police on a higher state of alert and unleashed a package of sanctions including a ban on North Korean diplomats entering the country.
In Moscow, a Kremlin aide said the North Korean tests would come under scrutiny at a G8 summit of the world's leading industrial nations in Saint Petersburg this month.