The United States prevailed over China on Friday as the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution welcoming North Korea's pledge to give up nuclear arms but taking Pyongyang to task for violating the nonproliferation treaty.
China refrained from co-sponsoring the text, which was adopted by consensus, in a reflection of its displeasure with the resolution focusing on U.S. priorities. Still, diplomats noted that the resolution was submitted to the 139-nation IAEA General Assembly only after Beijing indirectly signed off on the text.
Russia, which along with China is one of five nations negotiating with North Korea over scrapping its nuclear arms, also did not co-sponsor the text, showing that it, too, was unhappy with the outcome.
But the dispute is significant because it reflects the disagreement between the two nations on how to proceed at a more important level: on future talks among North Korea, China, the United States and three other nations meant to build on Pyongyang's commitment to mothball its nuclear weapons, the AP says.
Confirming the differences and outlining Washington's concerns, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday that the U.S. was insisting any resolution agreed upon in Vienna not "change any understandings or what was agreed to at the six-party talks."
A diplomat, who demanded anonymity because the resolution had not been made public, said the text tried to balance U.S. concerns that North Korea commit to honoring the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and less specific Chinese-requested language focusing on rewards to Pyongyang.
At their last meeting earlier this month, delegates from North Korea, the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan reached a landmark accord in which North Korea pledged to abandon all its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid and security assurances.
In return, it won recognition of its desire to keep its civilian nuclear program and a pledge to discuss its demand for a light-water nuclear reactor, after it meets international safeguards and rejoins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But just hours later, Pyongyang said it would not dismantle its nuclear facilities until it gets light-water reactors from the United States, casting a shadow on the agreement. Washington has rejected that demand.