By Louis Charbonneau
The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's latest rocket launch and promised to take punitive steps, while Washington vowed to ensure the 15-nation body imposed "serious consequences" on Pyongyang as soon as possible.
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this launch," Venezuelan Ambassador Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno, president of the council this month, told reporters on Sunday.
He said the launch was "a serious violation".
He added that the 15-nation council "restated their intent to develop significant measures in a new Security Council resolution in response to the nuclear test" in January, as well as Sunday's rocket launch. He said they would work "expeditiously".
Standing alongside her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, US Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters: "We will ensure that the Security Council imposes serious consequences. DPRK's (North Korea) latest transgressions require our response to be even firmer."
The United States and China began discussing a resolution to expand existing UN sanctions after Pyongyang's January 6 atom bomb test.
Power said she hoped the council would have a draft resolution to vote on "as quickly as possible".
"It is urgent and overdue."
Diplomats say Washington is closely consulting with Japan, South Korea, Britain and France on its discussions with China, while Beijing is keeping in close contact with fellow veto power Russia.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior Western diplomat said he hoped the council would be able to vote on a new sanctions resolution this month.
He said the Americans had been pushing for tough new measures that went beyond targeting North Korea's atomic weapons and missile programs, while China wanted any future steps to focus on the question of nonproliferation.
China expressed regret and concern over Sunday's rocket launch, which employed ballistic missile technology. China is North Korea's main ally, but it disapproves of its nuclear weapons program.