Security Council meets to discuss N. Korean rocket

Monday, April 6, 2009
A child stands near a North Korean soldier along the North Korean river banks opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, northeastern China's Liaoning province, Sunday, April 5 , 2009. North Korea fired a rocket over Japan on Sunday, defying Washington, Tokyo and others who suspect the launch was cover for a test of its long-range missile technology. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.S. and its allies sought punishment Sunday for North Korea's defiant launch of a rocket that apparently fell into the Pacific, holding an emergency U.N. meeting in response to the "provocative act" that some believe was a long-range missile test.

President Obama, faced with his first global security crisis, called for an international response and condemned North Korea for threatening the peace and stability of nations "near and far." Minutes after liftoff, Japan requested the emergency Security Council session in New York.

U.S. and South Korean officials claim the entire rocket, including whatever payload it carried, ended up in the ocean but many world leaders fear the launch indicates the capacity to fire a long-range missile. Pyongyang claims it launched an experimental communications satellite into orbit Sunday and that it's transmitting data and patriotic songs.

Security Council members above all sought a unified response and did not expect to reach agreement on a new resolution, possibly with tighter or added sanctions, until later in the week, diplomats privy to the closed talks said.

Using a possible loophole in U.N. sanctions imposed after the 2006 nuclear test that barred the North from ballistic missile activity, the Pyongyang government claimed it was exercising its right to peaceful space development.

The U.S. said nuclear-armed North Korea clearly violated the resolution, but objections from Russia and China -- the North's closest ally -- will almost certainly water down any strong response. Both have Security Council veto power.

"Obviously today's action by North Korea constitutes a clear violation," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "My government has called this a provocative act, and we have been in consultation today with our allies in the region and other partners on the Security Council ... to work toward agreement on a strong collective action."

Yukio Takasu, Japan's ambassador to the U.N., called the launch "a clear crime" violating U.N. Security Council demands that posed a grave threat to his nation's security. North Korea had warned that debris might fall off Japan's northern coast when the rocket's first stage fell away, so Tokyo positioned batteries of interceptor missiles on its coast and radar-equipped ships to monitor the launch.

Obama warned the launch would further isolate the reclusive nation. But U.S. officials also called for pragmatism, especially with efforts to get North Korea back to the negotiating table for the six-party talks.

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