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News Wrap: U.S. and China Push for New Sanctions on North Korea

March 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. and China joined today in pushing for fresh U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The aim is to punish Pyongyang for conducting another nuclear test last month.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposal will target what she called illicit activities by North Korean diplomats and banking operations.

U.S. AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE, United Nations: North Korea will be subject to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The breadth and scope of these sanctions is exceptional and demonstrates the strength of the international community’s commitment to denuclearization and the demand that North Korea comply with its international obligations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: North Korea angrily rejected the proposed sanctions, and it denounced ongoing new war games by the U.S. and South Korea. The country’s military talked of canceling the cease-fire that ended the Korean War in 1953.

KIM YONG CHOL, Korean People’s Army: The Korean People’s Army Supreme Command will declare completely invalid the Korean armistice agreement as of March 11th, the day when the war maneuvers enter into a full-dress stage. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will make a strike of justice at any target any time it pleases without limit and achieve the great cause of the country’s reunification.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.N. Security Council may vote on the sanctions resolution on Thursday.

John Brennan is one step closer to becoming CIA director. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved his nomination today 12-3, and sent it to the full Senate. That came after White House officials provided classified legal opinions justifying drone attacks on terror suspects overseas. Later, NBC News reported Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled out drone attacks inside the U.S., except in an extraordinary circumstance, such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

U.S. officials are saying the CIA wasn’t involved in the latest drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have said the attacks in early February killed two senior al-Qaida commanders and several others in remote tribal areas. The New York Times today cited unnamed American sources who said the CIA hasn’t attacked any targets in those areas since January. The officials suggested Pakistan’s military may have carried out the strikes.

China’s Communist Party rulers laid out their plans for the future today, and they conceded the need to address environmental damage and political corruption.

Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: In his final address to China’s National People’s Congress, outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao touted his country’s economic leap forward in the face of the 2008 global downturn.

WEN JIABAO, Chinese Premier: In the last five years, we have moved beyond the serious blow dealt by the international financial crisis. This crisis hit hard and expanded quickly. Its impact was deep and seen once in a hundred years. We have faced it with a clear head.

MARGARET WARNER: In fact, China’s GDP nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012. But this year’s growth rate target was set today at 7.5 percent, which, if not exceeded, would be China’s slowest since 1990. And Wen warned the country’s communist leaders that they must deal with the growing gap between rich and poor and the quality-of-life issues affecting all citizens.

WEN JIABAO: We should resolutely solve problems of serious air, water, and soil pollution that affect people’s vital interests, improve environmental quality, safeguard people’s health, and give people hope through our concrete action.

MARGARET WARNER: Beijing in particular is choked by smog, and there is widespread contamination of China’s water and soil. There’s also mounting anger over official corruption, as Wen acknowledged. The most public scandal involving Bo Xilai, a former rising star in the Communist Party who fell from power last year.

WEN JIABAO: We should unwaveringly combat corruption, strengthen politically integrity; establish institutions to end the excessive concentration of power and lack of checks on power.

MARGARET WARNER: These challenges will largely fall to Xi Jinping, who officially takes over as president at the end of the two-week-long assembly. He will take the reins at a time of rising Chinese assertiveness in the region and territorial disputes with Japan and other neighbors.

All this bolstered by a defense budget that it was announced today will expand by more than 10 percent again this year. Yet, spending on internal security will top defense spending for the third straight year.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A late winter storm in the U.S. roared across the Upper Midwest today, bringing a load of heavy wet snow. The storm blanketed Wisconsin and Illinois, making for treacherous travel conditions and shutting down schools. Chicago was expecting 10 inches of snow, forcing the city’s airports to cancel more than 1,100 flights.

The system was on track to strike the Washington, D.C., area overnight, where more than 800 flights are already canceled.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Ray.