Rocket launch isolates North Korea, U.S. says

Picture released by North Korean state news agency shows Kim Jong Il, center, with staff from the rocket team.
The U.S. State Department said Monday that North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket on Sunday should not be seen as a victory for Pyongyang.

“I would reject that characterization completely,” department spokesman Robert Wood said at a news briefing. “It was not a win for North Korea. This kind of action only further isolates the North.” North Korea has described the launch — which came after numerous international warnings — in celebratory terms. State-run media KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed “great satisfaction” at seeing the launch of the rocket carrying a communications satellite. The United States and other nations argue the move demonstrated the country’s ability to shoot a long-range missile — a rocket with a warhead attached — and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. The council met Sunday evening, but produced no immediate, official response. “This is — was always going to be, a process that would take at least several days,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on CNN’s “American Morning.” “Yesterday was simply the opportunity for countries to present their opening salvos — their initial positions. We heard from all of the 15 members of the Security Council. There was a general sense of grave concern about what had transpired and recognition that this was indeed a serious development. Watch discussion of North Korea nuclear program »

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“After that formal meeting behind closed doors, we then went into consultations with some of the most critical players on this issue. And that was where we began the discussion about what form and what substance Security Council action ought to take.” The five permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States — have veto power. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said many other countries joined the United States in denouncing North Korea for the rocket launch, adding that Pyongyang has further isolated itself and jeopardized some future gains from the six-party talks between the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea. The talks are aimed at persuading North Korea to scrap its nuclear program “We know that working out the exact language is not easily done overnight, but we remain convinced that coming out with a strong position in the United Nations is the first … important step we intend to take,” she said. “North Korea has to know that any efforts to obtain the objective it set forth as desiring the six-party talks are in jeopardy. We are going to take this one step at a time.” While the United States has called for tough sanctions against North Korea, China and Russia are calling for calm. Wood said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been in touch with representatives of the four other permanent five nations and would make more calls on Monday. “We’re going to continue to go forward in discussions with our partners in the council to see and to seek a strong, coordinated and effective response,” Wood said. When asked what unilateral actions the United States may be willing to take, Wood responded, “Obviously, if there are things that we can do, we will certainly do them. But right now the focus of our intention is in New York on trying to get a unified response.” He added that there are “discussions that go on” about what a U.S. response might be.

Rice, in her CNN interview, said, “We believe the most appropriate form for that response to take would be a Security Council resolution with some teeth in it. Watch ambassador say there was no sign of satellite » “We will continue to work in that direction, but we have also to look at our bilateral mechanisms and further steps.” The goal, she said, is “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”