SEOUL (AFP) — South Korea vowed a stern response and Japan threatened new sanctions after North Korea's rocket launch, but the United Nations struggled for agreement on whether to punish the communist state.
"North Korea's reckless act that threatens regional and global security cannot be justified under any circumstances," South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said in a radio address, promising a "stern" response to provocations.
Japan's government will decide Friday on new bilateral sanctions in response to Sunday's launch, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said in Tokyo.
A survey published Monday in the Yomiuri Shimbun daily showed strong support for increased sanctions, with 78 percent favouring tougher action out of 1,042 people questioned in a weekend survey.
The Security Council adjourned Sunday after three hours of closed-door talks with no agreement on a response to what Western members called a clear breach of UN resolutions.
"Members of the Security Council agreed to continue consultations on an appropriate action by the council in accordance with its responsibilities given the urgency of the matter," Mexico's UN ambassador Claude Heller, the council chair this month, told reporters after the meeting.
The North Sunday announced that a long-range rocket placed into orbit a communications satellite which was beaming songs in praise of the nation's revolutionary leaders.
Leader Kim Jong-Il was present at the launch and "warmly encouraged" scientists and technicians before having his picture taken with them, state media said Monday.
South Korea and the US military say any satellite never made it into space.
Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, along with other nations, say the launch was a pretext to test a long-range missile test in violation of UN resolutions.
A Western diplomat said US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, backed by her British and French colleagues, pressed for "strong condemnation" of the launch.
But Russia, China, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam called for restraint so as not to endanger the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the diplomat added.
The talks group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
"We are now in a very sensitive moment. All countries concerned should show restraint and refrain from taking action that might lead to increased tension," China's UN ambassador Zhang Yesui told reporters Sunday.
"The use of ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the resolution which prohibits missile-related activities," Rice noted in reference to Resolution 1718 passed after the North's missile and nuclear tests in 2006.
"Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something," US President Barack Obama said earlier in the day.
Analysts said available data from Sunday's launch indicated that North Korea had failed in its third attempt since 1998 to build an accurate long-range missile.
"Today was a failure," Joseph Bermudez of Jane's Information Group told AFP Sunday.
"And it seems to indicate that North Korea has not been able to demonstrate a reliable system capable of being an ICBM or a space launch vehicle."
Bermudez said current information indicated the second stage did not drop, meaning the rocket was too heavy to sustain flight.
He termed it a step back from the 1998 launch of a Taepodong-1 which achieved first and second-stage separation while the third stage failed. The only previous test of a Taepodong-2, in 2006, failed 40 seconds after lift-off.
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