Council split

Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomy, reporting from the UN, said there was definitely a split at the council, with China and Russia calling for a cautious response, and the US, Japan, South Korea and EU countries urging a strong, unified response.

In depth


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There was even disagreement over whether North Korea had violated Resolution 1718 which was adopted in 2006 after Pyongyang's missile launch on July 5 and nuclear test on October 9 the same year.

It demands that the country refrain from any further nuclear testing or another ballistic missile launch.

Barack Obama, the US president, called the rocket launch a "provocation" that required a strong international response by the security council, during a speech in Prague on Sunday.

"Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something," he said.

But Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, responding to calls for condemnation on the ministry's website on Sunday, said that "relevant parties must ... avoid taking actions that could make the situation even more tense".

Russia also urged restraint while a report said Moscow was studying whether Pyongyang had in fact broken any UN Security Council resolutions.

Rocket launch

At the request of the US and Japanese governments, the security council meeting was called after North Korea launched what is believed to be a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile, with an estimated range of 6,700km.

N Korea's 'space programme'

North Korea says it launched its first satellite, Kwangmyongsong-1 (right), into orbit aboard a Taepodong 1 rocket in 1998

It says the satellite launch was successful, beaming a looped recording of the Song of General Kim Il Sung back to Earth

US space command said at the time it was unable to find any North Korean satellite in orbit

North Korea says it has now launched the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite on top of what it has called an Unha-2 rocket

Yukio Takasu, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, said: "Thank God nothing fell on Japan. But it doesn't change the situation. It is a clear sign of intention and a threat to international peace and security."

Sunday's launch sparked alarm because North Korea has acknowledged it has nuclear weapons.

For several tense minutes on Sunday, North Korea's rocket flew through Japan's airspace, which had given its military the authority to shoot down any threat - something Pyongyang had warned would be seen as an act of war.

North Korean state media reported that Pyongyang had sent a satellite into space at 00:29GMT on Sunday and that it was now circling the earth.

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.

South Korea called the launch "reckless".
 
"The government cannot but express disappointment and regret over North Korea's reckless act of firing a long-range rocket, which poses a serious threat to security on the Korean peninsula and the world," Lee Dong-kwan, a spokesman for South Korea's president, said.

"The government will deal firmly and resolutely with North Korea's provocative act."

Strengthening North's hand

State media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il oversaw the launch [EPA]
Balbina Hwang, a former adviser to Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, told Al Jazeera that no one should have been surprised at the rocket launch because Pyongyang had been methodical about conveying its intentions.

Saying that "sabre rattling" was the North's form of foreign policy, she said the launch "draws into very serious doubt the future of the six-party talks in terms of being able to accomplish its stated goal which is the full and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

"The ability to test a satellite is within the purview of any sovereign nation," she said.

"The problem is that most satellite launches are done on equipment or missile-rockets that are in fact ballistic-missile capable," which is against the UN resolution.

But she added that the parties to the talks have said they wish to continue negotiations and the rocket launch puts Pyongyang in a stronger position if it does return to the table.