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Asia-pacific

UN Security Council opens emergency session on rocket launch

Video by Katherine SPENCER

Latest update : 2009-04-06

The UN Security Council is due to meet Sunday at 3pm New York time (9pm Paris time) at the request of Japan and the US to discuss North Korea's "provocative" rocket launch. (Pictured: UN chief Ban Ki-moon)

AFP - The UN Security Council on Sunday began a closed-door meeting on North Korea's long-range rocket launch, with the United States seeking a strong response to Pyongyang's defiance of UN resolutions.
   

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters on her way to the meeting that it offered an opportunity to secure agreement on "strong collective action" to respond to what Washington, Japan and the European Union view as a "provocative act."
   
Several diplomats said they expected lengthy bargaining before agreement can be reached on a text, which may not emerge Sunday.
   
"France strongly condemns the launch," its ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters. "We expect the Council to unanimously condemn what has happened and respond to this provocation and violation of international law."
   
The meeting was called at the request of the US and Japanese governments by  Mexico's UN Ambassador Claude Heller, chair of the 15-member council this month.
   
It came after North Korea launched what is believed a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile, with an estimated range of 4,100 miles (6,700 kilometres), in violation of Security Council resolution 1718 adopted in 2006 after the North's missile launches on July 5 and nuclear test on October 9 that year.
   
That resolution demanded that Pyongyang refrain from any further nuclear test or another ballistic missile launch.
   
"Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something," US President Barack Obama said during a speech in Prague about ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
   
He called the rocket launch a "provocation" that required a strong international response by the Security Council.
   
But, Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, urged restraint.
   
"Relevant parties must ... avoid taking actions that could make the situation even more tense," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website.
   
Russia also urged restraint while a report said Moscow was studying whether Pyongyang had broken any UN Security Council resolutions.
   
Diplomats here say Beijing and Moscow are likely to block any bid by the United States and its Western allies to push for new sanctions on North Korea over the latest rocket launch.
   
But a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council might take up a resolution or a non-binding statement that would reaffirm existing sanctions.
   
For several tense minutes, the North Korean rocket flew through the airspace of Japan, which had given its military the authority to shoot down any threat to its soil -- something Pyongyang had warned would be seen as an act of war.
   
But Japan said the booster rockets fell harmlessly into the water, while the United States and Seoul said the launch had failed to get its payload, a satellite, into orbit.

Date created : 2009-04-05

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