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United Nations (AFP) Dec 12, 2012
The UN Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket in defiance of threats of sanctions, a Western diplomat said.
"The Japanese and the Americans have requested a Security Council meeting, which will take place late Wednesday morning" around 11:00 am (1700 GMT), the diplomat said.
Japan's chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura told reporters in Tokyo that the Japanese envoy had already called for UN Security Council president Morocco to "swiftly summon" the council to a meeting.
The Western diplomat predicted the special talks would likely see a "strong response" at the council to the rocket launch that Seoul, Tokyo and their Western allies swiftly condemned as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
North Korea had confirmed hours earlier the launch of a long-range rocket and said it had succeeded in its mission of placing a satellite into orbit.
A previous launch of the same Unha-3 rocket in April had ended in failure, with the carrier exploding shortly after take-off.
In 2006, the Security Council imposed an embargo against North Korea on arms and material for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It also banned imports of luxury goods and named individuals and companies to be subject to a global assets freeze and travel ban.
In 2009, it imposed a ban on North Korea's weapons exports and ordered all countries to search suspect shipments.
According to Japanese reports, Japan, the United States and South Korea have agreed to demand the Security Council strengthen sanctions on North Korea to levels that match those on Iran.
That would include increasing the list of financial institutions, entities and individuals subject to asset freezes.
Much will depend on the stance taken by UN veto holder China, North Korea's sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider.
China 'regrets' N. Korea rocket launch
"We express regret at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's launch in spite of the extensive concerns of the international community," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, using North Korea's formal name.
He said Pyongyang should observe "relevant" resolutions of the United Nations Security Council -- which has imposed sanctions against the North over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.
China, North Korea's sole major ally and its biggest trading partner and aid provider, is seen as one of the few nations with any influence over its regime and had previously expressed concerns over the launch.
Over the past decade, China has repeatedly called for calm as North Korea tested nuclear weapons and carried out ballistic missile tests, despite wide condemnation from the international community.
Following Wednesday's launch, Beijing again urged all sides to ensure calm.
"China always maintains that the fundamental approach to the realisation of ensuring peace and stability of the Korean peninsula should be found through dialogue," Hong said.
"We hope relevant parties will keep calm and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula."
He reiterated China's stance that "the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has the right to make peaceful use of outer space but this right is also subject to the restriction of relevant UN Security Council resolutions".
But he did not answer directly when asked whether the launch violated UN resolutions, instead repeating the call for calm and peace.
North Korea insisted the mission was not a banned intercontinental missile test but was designed to place a scientific satellite in orbit, and said it had achieved all its objectives.
In a commentary after the launch China's state news agency Xinhua called for all sides to exercise restraint.
"All parties concerned should stay cool-headed and refrain from stoking the flames so as to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control," it said.
"In place of bellicose rhetoric and gestures, they need to take concrete actions to foster a conducive milieu for dialogue and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible."
Xinhua urged a resumption of long-stalled six-party talks over the North's nuclear programme, which are chaired by China and take in both Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.
"For years, the situation on the peninsula seems to have entered a reinforcing loop of misunderstanding, mistrust and animosity. The only viable way begins with trust-building," the agency said.
"In international relations, as in life, the best way to make an enemy of a country is to treat it like one," it said. "This rule of thumb is also true with making friends."
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