UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and its European allies called Wednesday for the U.N. Security Council to deliver a strong reaction to North Korea's successful rocket launch.
But whether China, North Korea's closest ally, will agree to new sanctions remained unclear.
The British, French and German ambassadors told reporters as they headed into closed Security Council consultations on North Korea that the successful effort Wednesday to put a satellite in space was a clear violation of a U.N. resolution, adopted after Pyongyang's second nuclear test in 2009, that bans "any launch using ballistic missile technology."
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said the council must have "a strong reaction" Wednesday, most likely a statement, followed by a resolution in the coming days, if possible.
The successful rocket launch is widely seen as a test that takes North Korea one step closer to being capable of sending a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California. North Korea officials say the rocket is meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns, and Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a civilian space program.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in Washington that "the international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions have consequences."
The Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions against the North, following each of its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
After North Korea's failed rocket launch in April, the council unanimously approved a presidential statement in which it expressed "its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test." DPRK are the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei cautioned Wednesday in Beijing that the council's response should be "prudent and moderate and conducive to maintaining stability and avoiding escalation of the situation."
But Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig called the launch "a serious breach" of North Korea's international obligations and the 2009 resolution and said, "I think it's time to ... send out a clear message to DPRK sooner rather than later."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that in his country's view, the council "should react quickly and should react strongly to this provocation."
There may be different views in the council on a new resolution, he said, "but we shall be pressing for rapid action."
Council diplomats have speculated that existing sanctions could be widened to include financial measures and target additional companies and individuals in North Korea. The council could also consider measures that would lead to more robust implementation of sanctions, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.