Last minute demands by Russia and China snagged a planned meeting of the UN Security Council Saturday to take a decision on a set of sanctions against North Korea for testing a nuclear device.
The new development prompted ambassadors from the US, France, Britain and Japan to hold urgent discussion to salvage the draft at the UN headquarters. They were joined afterwards by the envoys from China and Russia who explained the demands, which were not made public.
Spokespersons for the US and French ambassadors told reporters there was no certainty the council meeting would proceed on Saturday.
"I would hope so," said Rick Grenell of the US mission to the UN. He said the two sides were still in disagreement after Russia and China wanted to amend the draft.
In Moscow, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said after meeting a high-ranking Chinese delegation headed by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan Saturday that military forces should not be used against North Korea.
Both Russia and China wanted renewed political and diplomatic efforts to resume the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, which involve China, the US, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.
Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexander Alexeyev travelled Friday to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. The North Koreans expressed a readiness to return to the six-party talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
John Bolton, the American ambassador to the UN, said that Japan and the five permanent council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - were to meet early Saturday before the full council would meet to discuss the new questions about sanctions against North Korea, The New York Times reported.
He called Russia's questions "technical" rather than "substantial".
In Washington on Friday evening, preliminary US tests on air samples taken over North Korea found radioactive debris, lending additional credence to Pyongyang's claim it exploded a nuclear device, according to a draft report distributed to members of US Congress.
Developments at the UN followed intense diplomacy in Asia on Friday, where China and South Korea backed "appropriate" UN sanctions against North Korea over its announced nuclear test. The countries' presidents met in Beijing.
In addition, Japan approved an additional set of economic sanctions against Pyongyang.