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Obama said N. Korea 'broke the rules.' Now what?

N. Korea's missile launch Sunday complicates the long-term strategy of the US and her Asian allies toward Pyongyang's nuclear program.

By Staff writer, Don KirkCorrespondent / April 5, 2009

South Koreans watch a special news broadcast at a railroad station in Seoul on North Korea's launching of a long-range rocket on Sunday.

AFP/Newscom

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Beijing and Seoul

North Korea's successful rocket launch Sunday - despite the failure to orbit a satellite – boosts the rogue state's chances of one day building a nuclear-tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. But it leaves the US and her Asian allies in a quandary over their long-term strategy toward Pyongyang.

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South Korea ’s YTN network said that North Korea had demonstrated itsability to fire a missile 2,000 miles – a significant step towardrealizing the capability of delivering a warhead as far as Alaska ,Hawaii or the west coast of the US.

Japan called an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting for Sunday afternoon, threatening new sanctions against Pyongyang. President Barack Obama, in Prague for a summit on nuclear proliferation, singled out Pyongyang in a speech about the urgent need for a ban against nuclear weapons testing.

"North Korea broke the rules once more by testing a rocket that could be used for a long-range missile," Obama said. "This provocation underscores the need for action — not just this afternoon at the UN Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons."

Beijing, meanwhile, signaled its opposition to any new sanctions against its ally. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China "urge[d] all sides to maintain calm and exercise restraint," and remained ready to "play a constructive role."

The future of six-nation talks to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons capability in return for international acceptance, however, seemed to have been cast into even deeper doubt by the launch.

US disputes N. Korea's claim

The United Nations Security Council debate is likely to involve "a lot of political polemics" over whether the rocket, which North Korea claimed put a satellite into orbit, violated an earlier Council resolution, says Daniel Pinkston, head of the Seoul office of the International Crisis Group think tank.

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