NKorea rocket fizzles, US says; Obama urges action - Yahoo! News
"Kim wants food for his famished people, fuel and — perhaps most importantly — direct talks and relations with Washington."
North Korea rocket fizzles, US says; Obama urges action
Print AP – Associated Press Writers Paul Alexander And John Heilprin, Associated Press Writers – 43 mins ago
SEOUL, South Korea – The U.S. and its allies sought punishment 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.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed indignation Monday on national radio, saying "North Korea's reckless act of threatening regional and global security cannot have any justification."
U.S. and South Korean officials claim the entire rocket, including whatever payload it carried, ended up in the ocean after Sunday's launch, but many world leaders fear the launch indicates the capacity to fire a long-range missile. Pyongyang claims it launched a communications satellite into orbit that is now transmitting data and patriotic songs.
"North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles," Obama said 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 Sunday, seeking a unified response, but the meeting ended with a deadlock, breaking 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.
"We're now in a very sensitive moment," Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui said after the talks. "Our position is that all countries concerned should show restraint and refrain from taking actions that might lead to increased tensions."
Diplomats continued bilateral talks into the evening. The council's five permanent members — the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia — left for a meeting with Japan.
The U.S. Britain, France and Japan drafted a proposal for a resolution that could be adopted by the end of the week. It aims to toughen existing economic sanctions by "naming and shaming" individuals and entities, diplomats said.
Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, the council's president, said the council would reconvene "as soon as possible" on Monday.
Using a possible loophole in U.N. sanctions that bar the North from ballistic missile activity, Pyongyang 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 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."
While the rogue communist state has repeatedly been belligerent — as it was when it carried out an underground nuclear blast and tested ballistic missiles in recent years — Pyongyang showed increased savvy this time that may make punishment more complicated.
Unlike previous provocations, the North notified the international community that the launch was coming and the route the rocket would take, although critics of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il claim he really was testing a ballistic missile capable of hitting U.S. territory.
Analysts say sanctions imposed after the North's underground nuclear test in 2006 appear to have had little effect because some countries showed no will to impose them.
Kim is reportedly a big film buff,and his strategy appears to have borrowed heavily from the 1959 movie "The Mouse That Roared," about a fictional poor country that declares war on the U.S., expecting to lose and get aid like the Marshall Plan that Washington used to help rebuild its World War II foes.
North Korea's state Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim observed the launch. He expressed "great satisfaction" that North Korea's technicians "successfully launched the satellite with their own wisdom and technology."
South Korea's Yonhap news agency, quoting local MBC TV, reported that Shin Son Ho, North Korea's ambassador to the U.N., told reporters in New York, "We are happy. Very, very successful. You should congratulate" us.
The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Monday that South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities confirmed that the rocket's second stage landed in waters about 1,984 miles (3,200 kilometers) from the launch site, showing that North Korea has succeeded in about doubling the range compared to a 1998 launch.
Despite its policy of "juche," or "self-reliance," communist North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries, has few allies and is in desperate need of outside help. The money that flowed in unconditionally from neighboring South Korea for a decade dried up when the conservative Lee took office in 2008.
Pyongyang for years has used its nuclear weapons program as its trump card, promising to abandon its atomic ambitions in exchange for aid and then exercising the nuclear threat when it doesn't get its way. The North also has reportedly been selling missile parts and technology to whoever has the cash to pay for it.
Kim wants food for his famished people, fuel and — perhaps most importantly — direct talks and relations with Washington.
Right now, the main contact is through six-nation talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Kim Keun-sik, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said the launch would chill ties between Pyongyang and Washington, but likely not for long.
"Wouldn't they eventually come to hold talks? There is no other way," Kim said.
U.S. officials also are trying to obtain the release of two American journalists recently detained by the North along its border with China. Paik Hak-soon, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank, predicted they would be used as bargaining chips, with the North likely "to try to link them to the nuclear and missile talks."
Iran, which also has a contentious relationship with the international community over its nuclear program and is believed to have cooperated extensively with North Korea on missile technology, defended the launch.
"North Korea, like any other country, has the right to enter space," Iran's state TV said in a commentary, adding that the "pressure on North Korea to give up its indisputable right" was "unfair and dishonest."
Associated Press writers Jean H. Lee, Hyung-jin Kim, Jae-soon Chang and Kelly Olsen in Seoul contributed to this report. Heilprin reported from the United Nations.