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(News Focus) S. Korea seeks tougher U.N. action on N. Korea's rocket launch

All Headlines 17:45 December 12, 2012

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is seeking to call for the U.N. Security Council to take tougher action against North Korea's defiant launch of a multistage rocket, officials said Wednesday, with the launch appearing to be a success and representing a significant step forward in the North's ballistic missile technology.

The three-stage Unha-3 rocket flew over the Yellow Sea between South Korea and China and its debris fell into waters off the Philippines, Seoul's defense ministry confirmed, adding the North did appear to have put an object into space.

It seemed to be the most successful of the North's five attempts at launching a long-range rocket, condemned by Seoul, Washington and others as a disguised test of banned ballistic missile technology. Wednesday's launch came nearly eight months after another of the North's rockets exploded midair minutes after blast-off.

North Korea, with its state media hailing the launch as a "ground-breaking success," insists that it was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, but South Korean officials warned that the hard-line communist country currently under punitive U.N. sanctions for its previous nuclear and missile activities would face even tougher sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council meeting is set for around 1:00 a.m. on Thursday, Korea Standard Time.

"We plan to request the Security Council take tougher measures against the North's missile launch than those adopted at an April meeting," a senior foreign ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

In April, the Security Council adopted a non-binding presidential statement condemning the North's failed launch, apparently after an objection from China, a key ally of North Korea and one of the veto-wielding council members.

"Regardless of failure or success, the North's long-range missile launch was a clear violation of U.N. bans. This time, we will hold consultations at the Security Council with all options open," the official said.

South Korean officials hinted that they would demand the Security Council toughen financial sanctions against North Korea to levels similar to those imposed on Iran, although questions remain whether China would agree on strengthening sanctions against North Korea.

Along with South Korea, the U.S. and Japan also requested the Security Council meeting.

"At this stage, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are exchanging each other's ideas of more possible sanctions against North Korea," said another senior ministry official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba held telephone talks to discuss the North's launch, ministry officials said.

Kim also met with U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim and commander of the U.S. Forces Korea Gen. James Thurman in Seoul to discuss countermeasures over the rocket launch.

Potential sanctions include restrictions of shipping routes by North Korean vessels and adding more North Korean people and entities into the list of financial sanctions, the official said.

Citing a 2005 effort that froze North Korean accounts in a Macau-based bank, Banco Delta Asia, the official has floated the idea of imposing similar financial sanctions against North Korea again.

Analysts were skeptical over the role of China, which keeps North Korea's moribund economy afloat. They expected China to almost certainly veto any U.N. resolution against North Korea, which has already been squeezed by U.N. sanctions for previous missile and nuclear tests.

"China is expected to resist any Security Council resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea," said Hong Hyun-ik, a senior expert on North Korea at Seoul's Sejong Institute think-tank.

"Also this time, the Security Council is likely to adopt a presidential statement," Hong said.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the North's launch, expressing concern that it could have a negative impact on peace and security in Northeast Asia.

"The Secretary-General deplores the rocket launch. ... It is a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874, in which the Council demanded that the DPRK not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

The White House called North Korea's rocket launch a "highly provocative act" and warned that it will have to face "consequences" for its violation of U.N. resolutions.

China expressed "regret" at the North's launch, calling for Pyongyang to comply with the U.N. resolutions against the communist regime, Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.


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