6 Apr 2009

UN can't agree on how to deal with North Korea

5:04 pm on 6 April 2009

The UN Security Council remains deeply divided on how to respond to North Korea's controversial long-range rocket launch.

Pyongyang says it launched a communications satellite on Sunday, but the US, South Korea and Japan say it was actually a Taepodong-2 missile, designed to carry a warhead as far as Alaska.

At a three-hour emergency meeting of the Security Council on Sunday, members could not agree on an immediate response.

The US and Japan want the council to show that its resolutions cannot be denied with impunity, but Russia and China have called for restraint. Chinese UN ambassador Zhang Yesui says any council action should be proportionate.

International condemnation of the North Korean action has been swift. South Korea called it a "reckless" act, the European Union "strongly condemned" it, and US President Barack Obama said North Korea had ignored its international obligations and "further isolated itself from the community of nations".

A backward step - McCully

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says North Korea's actions are provocative, and have not helped efforts to build peace and stability in the region.

Mr McCully says the launch is contrary to the clear messages sent by Security Council resolutions, which require North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile programme.

He says it is a backward step after promising signs last year that North Korea was moving towards de-nuclearisation.

Singing its way through space

North Korea continues to insist, however, that what was launched is a communications satellite, and that it's circling the Earth transmitting revolutionary songs in praise of state founder Kim Il-sung and his son, current leader Kim Jong-il.

Analysts say a successful launch would help Kim Jong-il, 67, shore up domestic support after a suspected stroke in August raised questions about his grip on power.