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China, other powers say N.Korea should be punished

UNITED NATIONS – China, North Korea’s most important ally, joined other world powers on Tuesday in calling for a tough response to the reclusive communist state’s announcement of a nuclear weapons test.

China and Russia, which both border North Korea, met with other veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss a range of sanctions proposed by the United States and Japan to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

Beijing’s U.N. Ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters: “I think that there has to be some punitive actions.” But he did not say which of the U.S.-proposed sanctions he would support.

“We need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response to North Korea’s nuclear threat,” Wang added.

In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov called the reported test a “colossal blow” to the nonproliferation regime but, like China, insisted an eventual U.N. resolution should not involve the use of force. No one at the United Nations has proposed this.

“For us that is very important … imagine if there was military action on the territory of North Korea … North Korea has borders with three countries, and one of them is Russia,” Ivanov told reporters. The United States, France and Britain, the three other permanent council members, agreed that tough measures were needed fast, despite the fact that only Russia has said the evidence available confirms a nuclear blast actually occurred.

No council vote has been scheduled and no deal has been reached on an array of weapons-related and financial sanctions. Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, this month’s council president, and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said negotiations had made progress but differences remained.

“We don’t have complete agreement on this yet, but we’re making progress,” Bolton said.

In Brussels, a visiting North Korea legislator defended the tests, saying, “Our country has been under severe sanctions and threats by the United States for more than 60 years.

“We had to take measures in order to obtain a nuclear deterrent against the Americans,” said Ri Jong-hyok, adding that it was a “matter of life and death.”

The White House has repeatedly raised doubts about the strength of North Korea’s nuclear program and on Tuesday sought to play down the significance of its reported test. Spokesman Tony Snow said it would take more time to come to a conclusion on whether a nuclear device had been detonated.