UN Security Council condemns North Korea rocket launch

North Korea launches rocket in defiance of warnings

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea for launching a rocket in defiance of a UN ban.

Calling the launch "a clear violation of Security Council resolutions", the council said it would consider an "appropriate response".

The statement came after closed consultations in New York.

The US and its allies view the launch as a disguised test of ballistic missile technology. North Korea says its aim was to launch a satellite.

North Korea was banned by the UN from ballistic missile tests after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The US says Pyongyang will face "consequences" for the launch, calling it a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security".

Analysis

In its brief initial statement the Security Council said it would continue consultations on an appropriate response to the rocket launch, which violates a UN ban on Pyongyang's use of ballistic missile technology.

What that response will be depends largely on China, the veto-wielding power that protects North Korea on the Council. China expressed regret at the launch, but also urged a prudent and moderate international reaction to avoid an escalation on the Korean peninsula. Diplomats say the Chinese have shown reluctance to consider a binding resolution that might possibly expand existing sanctions against Pyongyang.

The US and European nations are expected to raise this option in negotiations over the coming days. But it is not clear how hard they will press the matter, perhaps themselves concerned about any escalation by the unpredictable state. And such a response would raise the bar: the Council imposed previous rounds of sanctions after North Korea carried out nuclear tests, not rocket launches.

White House spokesman Jay Carney would not specify what "consequences" Washington was considering, saying it would first assess what action was taken by the Security Council.

Western diplomats would like the UN statement of condemnation to be followed by a resolution in the coming days, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN.

Whether a UN resolution would strengthen existing sanctions depends on China, a permanent member of the Security Council and North Korea's closest ally, our correspondent adds.

So far Beijing has expressed "regret" at North Korea's action, but also urged restraint on any counter-measures. In the past it has blocked action against North Korea.

'Legitimate right'

The launch of the rocket early on Wednesday appears to have been a success, with stages falling in the areas North Korea had indicated they would.

North Korea says a satellite has been placed in orbit; US defence officials have confirmed an object has been put into space.

In North Korea, the news of the rocket's success was announced on state television.

Start Quote

The launch of an Unha-3 rocket marks a significant step forward for Pyongyang's ambitions to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile”

End Quote Jonathan Marcus BBC defence correspondent

A statement from its Foreign Ministry spokesman, carried by KCNA, warned against action in the Security Council, saying: "No matter what others say, we will continue to exercise our legitimate right to launch satellites".

Both Japan - over whose territory the rocket flew - and South Korea have strongly condemned the launch.

It came a week ahead of the South Korean presidential election and roughly a year after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, on 17 December 2011.

North Korea had not previously successfully launched a three-stage rocket.

Its most recent test, in April 2012, ended in failure, when the rocket flew for only a few minutes before exploding and crashing into the sea west of the Korean peninsula.

It is believed to be working on the development of a long-range missile capable of reaching the west coast of the US mainland.

Officials fear it could be working towards a missile on which a nuclear warhead could be mounted - but it is not thought to have fully developed either the missile or the warheads yet.

North Korea missile route map

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