Japan seeks strong U.N. response on North Korea rocket

Japan called on Tuesday for a strong response from the U.N. Security Council to North Korea’s rocket launch, which analysts say was a test of a long-range ballistic missile, but Tokyo acknowledged divisions remained.

The five permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — plus Japan met at U.N. headquarters on Monday to explore a possible compromise on a response to the launch, but reached no agreement.

They scheduled another meeting for Tuesday.

“All countries are agreed that a clear and firm response is needed. But the content is still under deliberation. Agreement has not been reached, there are various opinions,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference.

“The Japanese government continues to think it desirable for a new Security Council resolution to be passed. It is important for the Security Council to issue a strong and unified message,” Kawamura added. “Japan and the United States are acting together in discussions. This is a matter of course.”

Diplomats have said China and Russia probably would accept a Security Council warning to Pyongyang urging it to comply with U.N. resolutions and return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arms programme. But they opposed a binding resolution intended to punish Pyongyang.

Analysts said Sunday’s launch of the rocket, which flew over Japan during its 3,200 km (2,000 mile) flight, effectively was a test of a ballistic missile designed to carry a warhead as far as the U.S. state of Alaska.


The U.S. military and South Korea said no part of the Taepodong-2 rocket entered orbit, despite Pyongyang’s claim it carried a satellite now transmitting data and revolutionary music as it circled the Earth.

Nevertheless, analysts said the launch showed the impoverished North had greatly increased the range of its missiles even though it may be years away from building a missile to threaten the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s defiance also grabbed global attention for his destitute state and bettered his hand in the often-employed negotiating strategy of using military threats to squeeze concessions from regional powers.

North Korea is likely to use the first successful launch of the Taepodong-2 to extract concessions for showing up at future six-party talks. Pyongyang also could seek to water down obligations it signed onto under previous negotiations.

“The core element in this situation is the six-party talks,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said at U.N. headquarters on Monday.

“The key thing is to make sure that we do not confine ourselves to an emotional knee-jerk reaction because what we do need is a common strategy and not losing sight of the goal — and this is the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

The nuclear negotiations have been stalled since December. They involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

Washington would like a resolution that would expand existing financial restrictions on Pyongyang. But diplomats said it might have to settle for a nonbinding statement.

Russia and China have made clear they would veto any attempt at new sanctions. Beijing, the nearest North Korea has to a major ally, has said any reaction must be “cautious and proportionate.” Three other countries on the 15-member council support the Russian and Chinese view, diplomats said.

The United States, Japan and South Korea say the launch violated Security Council resolutions banning the firing of ballistic missiles by Pyongyang, imposed after a nuclear test and other missile exercises in 2006.

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