UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. and its allies sought punishment Sunday for North Korea’s defiant launch of a rocket that apparently fizzled 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 Barack 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 is transmitting data and patriotic songs.
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. No shot was necessary.
“North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles,” Obama said Sunday in Prague. “It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.”
Council members met for three hours, seeking a unified response, but broke up for the night without issuing even a customary preliminary statement of condemnation. Diplomats privy to the closed-door talks say China, Russia, Libya and Vietnam were concerned about further alienating and destabilizing North Korea.
Diplomats continued talks into the evening. The Security Council’s five permanent members — the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia — left for a meeting with Japan, and the council planned to reconvene today.
The U.S. Britain, France and Japan drafted a proposal for a resolution that could be adopted by the end of the week. It is aimed at toughening existing economic sanctions by “naming and shaming” individuals and entities, council diplomats said.
Using a possible loophole in U.N. sanctions imposed after the 2006 nuclear test that barred the North from ballistic missile activity, the North Korean government claimed it was exercising its right to peaceful space development.