UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council Sunday adjourned three hours of closed-door talks on North Korea's long-range rocket launch with no agreement on how to respond to what Western members called a clear violation 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 Ambassador Claude Heller, the council chairman this month, told reporters after the meeting.
The United States and Japan, which called for the meeting in response to what they view as Pyongyang's "provocative act," said that the launch of a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile, with an estimated range of 4,100 miles violated Security Council resolution 1718.
"North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles," President Barack Obama said in Prague. "It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons."
That resolution, adopted in 2006 after the North's missile launches on July 5 and nuclear test on Oct. 9 that year, demanded that Pyongyang refrain from any further nuclear test or another ballistic missile launch.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told reporters that additional consultations would continue both here and in capitals around the world later Sunday and in the coming days, to try to agree "a clear and strong response from the council."
Diplomats said there was general agreement on expressing concern over the launch and calling on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and to respect U.N. resolutions.
"The fact of the launch was in itself a clear violation of (1718). The use of ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the resolution which prohibits missile-related activities," Rice noted.
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rice, backed by her British and French colleagues, pressed for a "strong condemnation" of the North Korean action during the consultations.
But Russia, China, Libya, Uganda, and Vietnam called for restraint in the council's reaction so as not to endanger the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the diplomat added.
The six-party talks bring together 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 U.N. Ambassador Zhang Yesui told reporters.
"Our position is that the council's reaction has be cautious and proportionate," he added, vowing that his country would participate in the discussions in a "constructive and responsible manner."
His Japanese counterpart, Yukio Takasu, insisted that Tokyo wanted a "clear, firm and unified response" from the council in the form of a resolution.
"Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something," US President Barack Obama earlier said during a speech in Prague about ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
But, Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, urged restraint.
"Relevant parties must . . . avoid taking actions that could make the situation even more tense," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website.
Russia also urged restraint while a report said Moscow was studying whether Pyongyang had broken any U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Diplomats here say Beijing and Moscow are likely to block any bid from the United States and its Western allies to push for new sanctions on North Korea over the latest rocket launch.
But a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council might take up a resolution or a non-binding statement that would reaffirm existing sanctions.
For several tense minutes, the North Korean rocket flew through the airspace of Japan, which had given its military the authority to shoot down any threat to its soil — something Pyongyang had warned would be seen as an act of war.
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.
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