(Associated Press) - Key U.N. Security Council members moved closer to agreement late Thursday on a U.S.-proposed resolution that would impose weapons and economics sanctions but rule out use of force against North Korea over its purported nuclear test.
Tougher earlier versions of the resolution met opposition from Russia and China, who wanted a more moderate response to Pyongyang's nuclear brinkmanship in hopes the reclusive communist nation would return to disarmament talks, reports Trend.
Both countries wanted to focus on reining in the North's weapons programs and China wanted to ensure that nothing in the draft could trigger military action.
A new U.S. draft circulated Thursday night tries to satisfy both the United States and China on the scope of sanctions. It also eliminates a blanket arms embargo in the previous text, instead targeting specific equipment for sanctions including missiles, tanks, warships and combat aircraft.
The United States reported significant progress in bridging differences with Russia and China after more than two hours of negotiations among ambassadors from the five permanent council nations the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France and Japan's ambassador who is the current council president.
The U.S. said it hoped a vote could be held on Friday though Japan said Saturday was more likely.
"We have made very substantial progress," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters after the meeting.
The revised resolution was sent to capitals Thursday night so ministers can examine the latest changes. Bolton said the full Security Council is meeting Friday morning.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya agreed that "good progress has been made" in improving the text. Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said there had been "a number of improvements" and, importantly, council unity "is in good shape."
Separately, the Japanese government decided Friday to close the country's ports to North Korean ships and ban trade with the communist state. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet approved the sanctions, which also include a six-month ban on travel to Japan by all North Korean government officials.
The strong response came even though North Korea's claim to have detonated a nuclear explosion Monday has not yet been confirmed, and despite warnings from the North that it would take strong "countermeasures" if Japan went ahead with the new sanctions.
Because Japan's trade with North Korea is limited, Abe faced little domestic opposition to cutting it off. Tokyo already had limited sanctions in place against North Korea, imposed after the North test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula in July.
The new U.S. draft expresses "profound concern" at North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear device and says it represents "a clear threat to international peace and security." But it makes clear the Security Council would have to adopt a new resolution "should additional measures be necessary" against North Korea, such as military action.
The major compromise, which appears to have satisfied both China and the United States, was on sanctions.
The United States insisted the resolution fall under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which authorizes punishments ranging from breaking diplomatic ties and imposing economic sanctions to naval blockades and military actions because of the gravity of North Korea's action.
China only wanted measures under Article 41 of Chapter 7, which authorizes non-military sanctions such as economic penalties, breaking diplomatic relations and banning air travel.
The new draft states that the Security Council would act under Chapter 7 and only take measures under Article 41.
The U.S. proposal eliminates the blanket arms embargo and would instead impose sanctions on specific equipment including tanks, combat aircraft, warships and missiles.
It keeps the requirement that all countries prevent the sale or transfer of luxury goods and material and technology which could contribute to North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs.
Like the previous draft, the new draft would condemn the nuclear test and demand that North Korea immediately return to nuclear talks without preconditions. It would also demand that North Korea "not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile."
Beijing and Moscow objected to the wide scope of financial sanctions and a provision authorizing the inspection of cargo going in and out of North Korea, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks are private.
There is concern among some diplomats that boarding North Korean ships could lead to a military response from the North.
The latest draft keeps the financial freeze on individuals and entities with any connection to North Korea's weapons or missile programs as well as a travel ban on those associated with the programs. But it changes the focus of the provision on inspections.
In the previous draft, all countries were authorized to inspect cargo to and from North Korea, "as necessary," to ensure compliance with the sanctions and to prevent illicit trafficking.
In the new draft, all countries are authorized to take "cooperative action including through inspection of cargo ... in particular to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials."