Correction to This Article
The article misspelled the site of President Obama's speech in Prague. It was Hradcany Square.

After Launch, Obama Focuses On Disarmament

Hours after North Korea's missile launch, President Obama told a crowd in Prague that he would aggressively pursue nuclear disarmament efforts.
Hours after North Korea's missile launch, President Obama told a crowd in Prague that he would aggressively pursue nuclear disarmament efforts. (By Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- Associated Press)
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By Michael D. Shear and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 6, 2009

ANKARA, Turkey, April 6 -- President Obama arrived in Turkey on Sunday night as global condemnation of North Korea gave way to intense diplomatic debate about how to punish the rogue nation for the brazen weekend launch of a rocket over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

As Obama prepared to address the Turkish parliament Monday, the U.N. Security Council met in an emergency session. Despite the urging of the United States and Japan, the 15-member council could not agree on a statement criticizing North Korea's rocket launch. China and Russia said they were not yet convinced that Pyongyang had violated any U.N. rules, according to council officials.

The council adjourned after three hours and agreed to continue negotiations on a resolution in the coming days. "Every state has the right to the peaceful use of outer space," said Russia's deputy U.N. envoy, Igor Shcherbak.

"I think we are now in a very sensitive moment," Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui told reporters after the meeting. "Regarding the reaction of the Security Council, our position is that it has to be cautious and proportionate."

The launch, and the concerns it raised, threatened to overshadow Obama's first visit to a Muslim country as president, during which he will meet with the Turkish president and prime minister and pay homage to the country's culture with visits to its most important monuments and mosques.

In Prague on Sunday, Obama condemned the North Korean launch as a "provocative" act and used the incident as a fresh reminder of the world's dangers. He promised a broad new government effort to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them.

Speaking in Hradskany Square, a hilltop plaza outside Prague Castle, just hours after the launch, Obama announced that he would immediately seek U.S. ratification of a ban on nuclear testing, convene a summit in Washington to stop the spread of nuclear material within four years and advocate for a nuclear fuel bank to allow peaceful development of nuclear power.

"Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something," he said after referencing the North Korean launch. "The world must stand together to stop the spread of these weapons."

The Sunday launch sent a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile from a base on North Korea's east coast over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, crossing Japanese airspace on the way. Japanese radar lost contact with the rocket when it was about 1,300 miles east of Japan.

About four hours after the launch, North Korea said that it had put a communications satellite into orbit and that it was transmitting patriotic music, including a celebratory tune about North Korea's leader titled "Song of General Kim Jong Il."

The United States and South Korea, however, said that the satellite had not reached orbit. The U.S. military's Northern Command said on its Web site that "the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean."

North Korea claimed in 1998, when it launched a Taepodong-1 missile, that it had succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit and that it also transmitted patriotic songs. The U.S. government later said that assertion was false.

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