United Nations: UN Security Council diplomats on Thursday warned North Korea to expect a response after Pyongyang`s repeated failed attempts to test-fire a powerful ballistic missile, the latest defiance of UN resolutions.
At the request of the United States, the council held urgent closed-door consultations after North Korea`s unsuccessful launch earlier in the day of two medium-range missiles as fears grew that the secretive country was preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test.
North Korea has now made three bids in two weeks to test-fly a Musudan missile, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.
"We are looking at a response," China`s Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds the Security Council presidency this month, told reporters after the hastily arranged meeting. He did not elaborate.
Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said his government "condemns the series of grave and very clear violations of Security Council resolutions."
"This is a threat to Japan`s national security," he said, adding that the 15-member council was unanimous in condemning the latest launches.
Current UN resolutions bar North Korea from developing any ballistic missile-related technology, and South Korea said it would push for fresh penalties to be slapped on Pyongyang.
The South Korean foreign ministry issued a strong condemnation, calling North Korea`s latest tests "an act of provocation" and said it would work at the United Nations to "try to put the North`s regime under more sanctions."
Diplomats said they expected the council to issue a statement on Friday after the Chinese delegation requested time to consult with officials in Beijing.South Korea said a first launch Thursday of what was understood to be a Musudan missile saw the rocket plunge back to earth seconds after take-off.
A second attempt in the evening -- again of a Musudan -- also appeared to have failed, a defense ministry official said.
An initial effort on April 15 -- the birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung -- ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure, with the missile apparently exploding just after take-off.
South Korean military officials say the North is desperate to register a successful launch ahead of next week`s ruling party congress, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country`s nuclear program to new heights.
In recent months, the North has claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear drive -- an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets across the continental United States.
The achievements trumpeted by Pyongyang have included miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry and building a solid-fuel missile engine.
Last Saturday, it successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile -- a move that was promptly condemned by the Security Council.The Musudan is believed to have an estimated range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers (1,550 to 2,500 miles).
The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.
US President Barack Obama has warned that North Korea is making dangerous progress, even when its efforts fall short of outright success.
"Although more often than not they fail in many of these tests, they gain knowledge each time," Obama said.
"We take it very seriously, so do our allies and so does the entire world."
Anxiety has been high since Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The council responded with its toughest sanctions to date, angering the North, which has since made repeated threats of attacks targeting the South and the United States.