U.S. may push for sanctions after North Korea rocket launch
December 12th, 2012
08:47 AM ET

U.S. may push for sanctions after North Korea rocket launch

By Elise Labott and Jethro Mullen

The United States will push for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea for launching a rocket Wednesday, senior administration officials told CNN.

"We will go to New York with a full head of steam and work hard with our partners on the council to get a tough, swift reaction," one official said.

Washington may push for sanctions similar to those imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, the officials said. The measures would target financial institutions and would designate specific members of the North Korean government for sanctions as well.

"There is a pretty strong commitment to go with a seriousness of purpose," one official said.

It is unclear whether such tough measures would be approved by the Security Council. North Korean allies China and Russia, two of the council's permanent members, could exercise their veto power.

The U.S. government has already been talking with China and Russia - as well as South Korea and Japan, the other partners in the ongoing six-party talks with North Korea - about potential consequences if Pyongyang ignored international warnings and launched its missile.

Even if the Security Council fails to pass sanctions, the United States and other nations could impose unilateral measures, as they have with Iran, the senior administration officials said.

Pyongyang has previously pressed ahead with rocket launches and nuclear tests despite international sanctions.

North Korea angered many in the international community Wednesday by launching a long-range rocket that appeared to put a satellite in orbit - a breakthrough for the reclusive, nuclear-equipped state.

The rocket successfully blasted off from a space center on the country's west coast and delivered a satellite into its intended orbit, the North Korean regime said. The launch followed a botched attempt in April and came just days after Pyongyang suggested a planned launch could be delayed.

North Korea's previous claims of successful satellite launches have been dismissed by the United States and other countries, but this time it seemed to have pulled it off.

Initial indications suggest the rocket "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit," the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the joint U.S.-Canadian aerospace agency, said in a statement.

The sudden launch ratcheted up tensions in East Asia.

It also undermined speculation that the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, might take steps to moderate his nation's uncompromising approach to foreign relations.

"This is something that we have to worry about," Philip Yun, who advised former President Bill Clinton on North Korean issues, said of the launch. He noted that it had taken the United States 24 attempts to successfully launch a similar kind of vehicle.

But North Korea still has a lot work of to do "if they're actually going to mount a nuclear device or a weapon on a rocket," said Yun, who is executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, a U.S.-based foundation that seeks to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Many nations, such as the United States and South Korea, consider the rocket launch to be a cover for testing ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang has insisted its aim was to place a scientific satellite in space "for peaceful purposes."

Countries around the world quickly condemned Pyongyang's move on Wednesday, saying it breached U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The South Korean government said the launch was confrontational and a "threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the world." Japan called it "intolerable."

The United States described the launch as "a highly provocative act" that is "yet another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behavior."

"The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences," said Tommy Vietor, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman.

China expressed regret that the launch had taken place, noting "concerns among the international community."

"We hope relevant parties stay calm in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference.

Several governments criticized Pyongyang's decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on its rocket program rather than on assisting its poor, malnourished population.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he deplored the fact that North Korea "has chosen to prioritize this launch over improving the livelihood of its people."

The North's failed launch attempt in April ended a deal for the United States to provide thousands of tons of food aid to the country.

The launch also ties in with important dates for the regime's ruling dynasty.

Pyongyang had said this rocket launch would be "true to the behests" of Kim Jong Il, the late North Korean leader and father of Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Il died on December 17 last year, so the rocket launch took place just days before tearful mourners are expected to gather for the first anniversary of his death.

Experts had also speculated that Pyongyang wanted this launch to happen before the end of 2012, the year that marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of Kim Jong Un.

Another factor may also be at play: The launch took place ahead of national elections in Japan on Sunday and in South Korea on December 19. North Korea is a crucial foreign policy issue in both of those countries.

The rocket took off Wednesday morning and flew south over the Japanese island of Okinawa. There were conflicting reports about how many parts fell into the sea.

South Korea is still trying to determine if the object the rocket put in orbit "is going to function properly," said Kim Min-seok, a Defense Ministry spokesman.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said the satellite, named Kwangmyongsong-3, was "fitted with survey and communications devices essential for the observation of the earth."

A launch had seemed unlikely to take place so soon after North Korea announced Monday that it was extending the rocket's launch window into late December, citing technical issues in an engine.

Previous launch attempts by the North in 1998, 2006, 2009 and April this year failed to achieve their stated goal of putting a satellite into orbit and provoked international condemnation.

The rockets launched in 1998 and 2009 flew for hundreds of kilometers but didn't succeed in deploying satellites, other countries and experts said at the time. North Korea nonetheless insisted that both satellites did reach orbit, with KCNA reporting that they were transmitting "immortal revolutionary" songs back to earth.

The 2006 launch failed soon after takeoff and wasn't reported by state media.

In April, the North Korean regime invited members of the international news media, including CNN, into the country to observe the preparations for its planned launch. But the strategy backfired when the rocket broke apart shortly after blasting off. On that occasion, state media took the unusual step of admitting the launch's failure.

soundoff (23 Responses)
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  4. wjmccartan

    Send in the clowns, opps North Korea already has one. How about that spontaneous dancing in the street, looks like they just got a copy of the Village People, go you silly North Koreans you. They managed to send a rocket into space as well, in forty or fifty years these guys could be a threat. Oh and someone tell Russia to stop selling their discontinued rocket parts to North Korea. The satellite they put up is to steal WB's old Bugs Bunny cartoons, cause the were the best.

    December 13, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
  5. RLTJ's

    Double standard is on its way out. Fairness with the world is at its infancy. Let's go generics. A fair world is a safer world.

    December 13, 2012 at 12:10 am | Reply
  6. Hoser

    Invite him to Seattle...smoke a joint...marry a gay guy...problem solved

    December 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Jack

      You sir just made my day.

      December 13, 2012 at 12:59 am | Reply
  7. BC

    To be honest, if your tell someone not to do something 10 times of course they are going to do it. Now when they do it you punish them. They should have just shot the Rocket down. They cant and wont do anything with 6 different countries telling them not too.

    December 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  8. Quigley

    Here go those idiots in Washington again with the politics of hunger, trying to starve someone into submission! How old this gets! Hunger should never be used as a weapon but try telling that to the right-wing thugs in Washington.

    December 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • Hoser

      I think the left is in charge right now

      December 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
      • Star-Spangled Bullsh!t

        Same sh!t, different pile.

        December 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
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  10. RLTJ's

    I think U.S.A. finds itself in a situation that he is being openly challenge. I don't see how he is getting out of that situation. Iran through Asia and North Korea. Will whipping any of them change course for him?

    I think he has been in a world political quicksand for very very long time now.

    December 12, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
  11. RLTJ's

    Ok, he just one daring little show and he should be punished. He is an inspiration to all the [underdogs], though. So I don't think U.S. is gaining anything.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
  12. RLTJ's

    It was a satellite they fired up.

    What kind of a show it will be?

    December 12, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  13. Hahahahahaha

    Maybe we can send them a shipment of "Flowbe's"? Dang that looks like a self performed haircut with a bad scissors and a jug of whiskey!!!!! Hahahahahahahahaha

    December 12, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
  14. Star-Spangled Bullsh!t

    Lets all try to not look so surprised or annoyed when China replies with the diplomatic equivalent of 'blow me'.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
  15. RQ

    He's got the coolest hair cut!

    December 12, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
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    That is one fine looking man.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Hey Phunnie boy, do show some respect. Walter Liberace has been dead since 1987 and was a great pianist in our time. So please don't make fun of him now.

      December 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
      • Sunshine, Lollipops, Great Big Throbbing C.........

        Why was Liberace buried with his @ss sticking out of the ground?

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        December 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

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