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U.N. Security Council eyes sanctions on N. Korea for rocket launch

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 6:42 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously condemned the North Korean rocket launch, calling it a “clear violation” of U.N. prohibitions.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the 15-member council, which has the power to authorize sanctions, will discuss a set of measures to punish North Korea for violating council resolutions barring it from pursuing nuclear and ballistic-missile testing.

North Korea fired the rocket late Tuesday that placed a satellite into orbit, defying international sanctions and showcasing the progress of the nuclear-armed totalitarian regime in ballistic-missile technology.

But the Obama administration is drawing no “red line” for North Korea after a successful long-range rocket test, tempering the public condemnation to avoid raising tensions or rewarding the reclusive communist nation with too much time in the global spotlight.

The United States has said that it won't tolerate Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons or Syria's use of chemical stockpiles on rebels. North Korea, in some ways, is a trickier case.

Washington wants to condemn forcefully what it believes is a “highly provocative act,” and that was the first public reaction from the White House late Tuesday. But it is mindful of the turmoil on the Korean peninsula and treading carefully, offering no threat of military action or unspecified “consequences” associated with other hot spots.

Just two years ago, the North allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship and shelled a South Korean island. Some 50 South Koreans died in the attacks, which brought the peninsula to the brink of war.

North Korea already has the deterrent of a nuclear weapons arsenal. The United States is bound to protect neighboring South Korea from any attack, but has no desire for a military conflict.

The attention gained by raising the rhetoric could be construed as a reward by a government that starves its citizens while seeking to leverage any military advance it makes into much-needed aid.

“The allies should have responded with a collective yawn. After all, the plan is nothing new. The DPRK has been testing rockets and missiles for years,” said Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

The United States remains technically at war with North Korea. With no peace agreement, only the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War keeps America and the North from hostilities. About 28,500 U.S. troops remain in South Korea to deter potential aggression.

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