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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Sanctions Look Likely

SEOUL -- North Korea's neighbors moved Friday toward a consensus that the Communist state should face sanctions over its rogue nuclear program. China, North Korea's last major ally, continued to counsel caution, but a published report hinted at a shift in its previous anti-sanctions stance. As a permanent Security Council member, Beijing could veto any UN sanctions resolution. South Korea and Japan said they would support United Nations sanctions, and Russia said it was ready to consider them, although all expressed hopes that diplomacy could prevail. North Korea, which has held off demands for full inspection of its nuclear sites for over a year, has said it would regard sanctions as an act of war. The burst of pro-sanctions momentum came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea had made it impossible to determine whether it was diverting plutonium for nuclear weapons. Washington immediately said it would seek sanctions in response. The hint of a possible change in China's position came in a Beijing-supported newspaper published in Hong Kong, Ta Kung Pao. It said in the event of an embargo, Beijing would halt food and oil supplies to North Korea, and cut all border trade. Officially, though, China continued to balk at sanctions. China's Deputy Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan, met Friday with his South Korean counterpart, Park Kun-woo, and stressed the need for diplomacy to resolve the dispute, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Chang Ki-ho said. South Korea and Japan had initially been reluctant to support sanctions, but in the wake of the agency's finding, both expressed resolve to take punitive steps against the North. Top South Korean security officials held a special meeting Friday and pledged participation in any sanctions agreed upon. South Korean President Kim Young-sam, in Moscow on an official visit, ordered his cabinet to take "all necessary measures" in concert with the United States and other allies. In New York, South Korea's envoy on nuclear matters was meeting Friday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci and Yukio Takeuchi, director of Asian affairs in the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The three as a group have frequently consulted on joint steps in the nuclear standoff. In Moscow, Kim told South Korean reporters traveling with him that Russia had promised it would not renew a friendship treaty its predecessor, the Soviet Union, signed with North Korea in 1961. It expires in 1996. Kim also said that President Boris Yeltsin had promised Russia would not provide North Korea with any offensive military weapons while the nuclear standoff continues. Yeltsin had said a day earlier that Russia would consider backing sanctions if diplomatic options failed. In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Koji Kakizawa said Japan was ready to support sanctions provided there is international consensus. "Japan should go along with what the UN decides," he told a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, according to Kyodo News Service. The foreign minister said the most pressing concern would be halting the transfer of funds and trade between Japan and North Korea. North Koreans in Japan give that country its most important source of hard currency.