Tue, Apr 07, 2009 - Page 1 News List

UN split over N Korean rocket launch

BLAST OFF Some called for strict measures against Pyongyang such as a non-binding resolution and sanctions, while others warned against jeopardizing the six-nation talks


South Korea yesterday vowed a stern response and Japan threatened new sanctions after North Korea’s rocket launch, but the UN struggled for agreement on whether to punish the communist state.

“North Korea’s reckless act that threatens regional and global security cannot be justified under any circumstances,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a radio address, promising a “stern” response to provocations.

Japan’s government will decide on Friday on new bilateral sanctions, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said. Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said it hoped the UN Security Council would agree on a resolution to condemn North Korea.

The council adjourned on Sunday after three hours of closed-door talks with no accord on a response to what Western members called a clear breach of UN resolutions.

Members were to continue consultations.

North Korea announced on Sunday that a long-range rocket had placed into orbit a communications satellite that was beaming “immortal revolutionary songs” in praise of its former and current leaders, former North Korean president Kim Il-sung and North Korean President Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il was present at the launch and “warmly encouraged” scientists and technicians before having his picture taken with them, state media said yesterday.

South Korea and the US military said a satellite never made it into space. A senior Russian military source also said there were no signs of a satellite.

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, along with other countries, said the launch was a pretext to test a long-range Taepodong-2 missile in violation of UN resolutions.

One diplomat at the UN said US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, backed by her British and French colleagues, pressed for “strong condemnation” of the launch.

But Russia, China, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam called for restraint so as not to endanger the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

“All countries concerned should show restraint and refrain from taking action that might lead to increased tension,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Yesui (張業遂) told reporters on Sunday.

“The use of ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the resolution, which prohibits missile-related activities,” Rice said in reference to Resolution 1718 passed after North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests in 2006.

Rice said the council might take up a resolution or a non-binding statement that would reaffirm existing sanctions.

Lee later called for China’s support in dealing with North Korea in a meeting with visiting Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun (李長春), Yonhap news agency reported.

Iran said yesterday that North Korea’s launch was justified and denied any links between the two countries’ missile programs, which analysts have widely alleged.

“We have always maintained that space can be used for peaceful purposes by adhering to international laws,” a Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said. “As it is our right to do so, we maintain that others also have that right.”

The Indian foreign ministry said the launch could have a “destabilizing” effect in the region but urged international restraint.

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