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UN Security Council blasts North Korea over rocket launch

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council condemned North Korea’s successful rocket launch on Wednesday and said it will urgently consider an appropriate response.

Whether that response includes new sanctions against North Korea, which the United States and its European allies are seeking, depends first and foremost on China, North ­Korea’s closest ally, which has not made its position clear.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei cautioned Wednesday in Beijing that the council’s response should be ‘‘prudent and moderate and conducive to maintaining stability and avoiding escalation of the situation.’’

The Security Council said in a brief statement after closed consultations that the launch violated council resolutions adopted after North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and a ban on any launch using ballistic missile technology.

The UN’s most powerful body recalled that after North Korea’s failed launch in April it demanded that Pyongyang halt any further launches using ballistic missile technology and expressed its determination to take action in the event of another launch.

‘‘Members of the Security Council will continue consultation on an appropriate response, given the urgency of the matter,’’ the council said.

The successful rocket launch is widely seen as a test that takes North Korea one step closer to being capable of sending a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California. North Korea officials say that the rocket is meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns, and that Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a civilian space program.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said that no matter how the North Koreans choose to describe the launch, it violates two council resolutions and shows that the country ‘‘is determined to pursue its ballistic missile program without regard for its international obligations.’’

‘‘The initial statement out of the council is one of the swiftest and strongest — if not the swiftest and strongest — that this council has issued,’’ Rice said. ‘‘Members of the council must now work in a concerted fashion to send a clear message that its violations of UN Security Council resolutions have consequences.’’

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