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UN Sec. Council Pledges 'Significant' Sanctions After North Korean Rocket Launch

A North Korean long-range rocket is launched into the air in this still image taken from North Korean television on February 7.

A North Korean long-range rocket is launched into the air in this still image taken from North Korean television on February 7.

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's rocket launch and said it would adopt a new resolution with "significant" new sanctions.

The statement was backed by China, Pyongyang's ally, and the 14 other council members during an emergency meeting on February 7, following North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket into space.

The closed-door meeting was requested by the United States, South Korea, and Japan to agree on a collective response to Pyongyang’s move.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the new UN resolution targeting North must be adopted very quickly and include "unprecedented measures" that Pyongyang doesn't expect.

Japanese envoy Motohide Yoshikawa, too called for heavier sanctions, saying, "the existing sanctions have not stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons."

But China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the resolution should "do the work of reducing tension...and of encouraging a negotiated solution."

North Korea’s state television said the launch -- ordered by leader Kim Jong Un to put a "satellite" in space -- was a “complete success.”

It said a North Korean satellite called Kwangmyongson-4 is now orbiting the Earth every 94 minutes and that the North would continue to launch satellites in the future.

But critics said the launch was a cover for testing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead -- a test that is banned by multiple Security Council resolutions.

North Korea launched a long-range rocket into space early on February 7, raising nuclear concerns in neighboring countries and in Washington.

It followed North Korea’s claim in January that it tested a hydrogen bomb.

Condemnation after the February 7 launch was swift, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling it “deeply deplorable” and said the rocket used ballistic-missile technology. Ban also said North Korea must stop “provocative actions.”

Russia said Pyongyang “once again demonstrated a flagrant disregard of norms of international law."

"Such actions lead to a serious aggravation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia on the whole...[and] inflict serious damage to the security of the countries of the region, first and foremost North Korea itself," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

China's Foreign Ministry said it "expresses regret" about North Korea's "insistence on implementing a launch of missile technology in the face of international opposition."

France's presidential Elysee Palace condemned North Korea's "senseless provocation" and called for a "rapid and tough" response from the UN Security Council.

Britain’s Foreign Office also warned of a "robust response" if Pyongyang continues to violate UN resolutions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to news of the launch by reaffirming Washington’s defense commitment to Japan and South Korea.

Kerry said the United States will work with the UN Security Council on “significant measures” to hold Pyongyang accountable for violating UN resolutions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Strategic Command said that its systems had detected and tracked what it believed to be a North Korean missile launch into space.

In a statement, the U.S. Strategic Command said defense officials tracked the launch in a southern trajectory from North Korea over the Yellow Sea.

It said the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, “determined that at no time was the missile a threat to North America."

Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, broke into its normal programming to quote a Japanese government statement that said the rocket passed over the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Japanese television broadcasts showed U.S.-supplied Patriot missile defenses on Okinawa poised to shoot down any debris from the launch that might fall on populated areas of Japan.

But authorities in Tokyo said no defense missiles were fired.

Also on February 7, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official announced that Seoul and Washington had agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of an advanced missile-defense system in South Korea.

Yoo Jeh-seung told reporters that the system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), would bolster South Korea-U.S. defense in the face of escalating North Korean threats.

China and Russia have argued that the deployment of the THAAD system to South Korea would undermine stability and could trigger an arms race in the region.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on February 7 it was "deeply concerned" at the decision to begin official negotiations.

"The U.S. promises to deploy a missile-defense system in Korea are not a move in our favor,” Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Vladimir Komoyedov told Interfax. “This is a threat to us, in particular, to our nuclear forces.”

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, BBC, CNN, NHK, and Yonhap