UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Disagreements on the U.N. Security Council over the crisis on the Korean peninsula are so severe that it is unlikely they can be resolved, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice said Sunday.
“The gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged,” Rice told reporters after an inconclusive 8-1/2 hour meeting on the escalating dispute between North and South Korea.
Other council diplomats, however, said it was possible the council could return to the issue as early as Monday.
Rice said that the “vast majority” of the 15 council members were “insisting on a clear-cut condemnation of the November 23 attack” by North Korea on South Korea in an artillery shelling incident in which four people were killed.
“There was not unanimity on that point,” she said.
Western diplomats said China and Russia were pushing for an ambiguous statement that would not have blamed North Korea for the crisis, but would have called on both sides to exercise restraint. Rice said the “vast majority” of council members did not want an ambiguous statement.
“It is important that we keep in mind that this tense situation springs from one source and one source alone — the consistently provocative behavior of North Korea,” Rice said in the written text of a statement she read to the council during its closed-door session Sunday.
British envoy Philip Parham also said Pyongyang was responsible for the crisis and that South Korea’s conduct had been blameless.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who requested the emergency council meeting on the escalating crisis on the Korean peninsula, expressed disappointment at the inability of the council to reach an agreement on a council statement on Sunday, though he indicated all hope was not lost.
“I hope still that those contacts (between delegations and with capitals) will result in a successful outcome,” he said.
Russia circulated to Security Council members a draft statement that called for “maximum restraint” and urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send an envoy to Seoul and Pyongyang to help stop the crisis spiraling out of control.
The United States, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea rejected that text, voicing support for a British draft that blamed the crisis on North Korea and condemned it for last month’s shelling incident. Russia and China would not agree.
Churkin made clear that Moscow was not giving up on the idea of a special U.N. envoy to the Korean peninsula: “It’s something which I think we’ll continue further discussing , if the circumstances on the ground permit.”
While Rice spoke of what appeared to be an unresolvable deadlock on the Security Council, other council diplomats said they would keep pushing for a statement.
Churkin stressed Moscow’s concern that hostilities could break out in a region in close proximity to Russia.
“Let me reiterate very strong concern of the Russian Federation that within hours there may be a serious aggravation of tension, a serious conflict for that matter,” he said.
Churkin called on South Korea to scrap military exercises it plans to carry out from an island near the border with North Korea beginning Monday morning. North Korea has threatened reprisals if the drill goes ahead.
“It’s better to refrain from doing this exercise at this point in time,” he said.
Rice disagreed. “These defensive exercises pose no danger to North Korea and threaten no North Korean lives,” she told the council.
Editing by Anthony Boadle