Rice finds S. Korea still cagey on tough N. Korean cargo inspections

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a three-way conference in the South Korean capital Thursday, Oct. 19, the second stop of her Asian tour. The Japanese foreign minister was also invited.
On Wednesday, US President George W. Bush said N. Korea would face “a grave consequence” if it transferred nuclear weapons to Iran or al Qaeda.
“If we get intelligence that they’re about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer, and we would deal with the ships that were taking the – or the airplane that was dealing with taking the material to somebody,” he said.
Rice’s tour, which next takes her to Beijing and Moscow, aims at enforcing the sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 1718, passed after North Korea held its first nuclear test on Oct. 9. A second test was rumored to be in the making the day before she landed in Asia.
Before leaving Seoul, Rice affirmed that no quarantine or blockade was intended against N. Korea, but all states must work to prevent the trafficking of nuclear materials.
Rice said Pyongyang must return unconditionally to the six-party talks and dismantle its nuclear program. She stressed that the US stood by its security commitments to S. Korea.
Meanwhile, a Chinese envoy on Thursday delivered a personal message from Chinese President Hu Jintao to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. No details of the message were released, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry said State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan and Kim had “in-depth discussions on China-North Korea relations, as well as the prevailing situation on the Korean Peninsula… This is a very significant visit, against the backdrop of major changes on the Korean Peninsula. We hope China’s diplomatic efforts… will bear fruit.”
China has warned its ally, N. Korea, against doing anything that would aggravate tensions, such as another nuclear test. It voted for the UN resolution imposing sanctions following the nuclear test.

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