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U.N. Security Council to Hold Emergency Session Over N. Korea Launch

North Korea's defiant rocket launch next tests the U.N. Security Council, which quickly approved an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon to weigh possible ways of punishing the isolated communist nation.

Mexico's mission to the United Nations set the meeting for 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), spokesman Marco Morales said. Mexico holds the 15-nation council's presidency this month.

That approval came after Japan submitted a formal letter requesting an emergency session of the United Nations council that handles threats to international peace and security. "We received a letter and there will be a meeting," Morales said.

Click to view photos | Satellite image of the launch area

FAST FACTS: A Glance at North Korea's Missile Arsenal.

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Japan's request for an emergency session of the 15-nation council came within minutes of the launch, said Yutaka Arima, a spokesman for Japan's mission to the U.N.

North Korea says it was putting a communications satellite into space. The U.S., South Korea, Japan and others suspect Pyongyang of using the launch to improperly test long-range missile technology.

North Korea ignored Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's protests against having a multistage rocket flying over Japan's turf.

It also defied calls by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders who pressed Pyongyang in the days leading up to liftoff to call off a launch they said would threaten peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday he regrets that North Korea went ahead with its plans "against strong international appeal." He urged it to comply with existing Security Council demands.

The council approved resolution 1718 in 2006 in an attempt to persuade North Korea to shelve its nuclear program and halt long-range missile tests.

"Given the volatility in the region, as well as a stalemate in interaction among the concerned parties, such a launch is not conducive to efforts to promote dialogue, regional peace and stability," Ban said.

In a statement from Paris, he urged "all countries concerned to focus on ways to build confidence and restore dialogue" including restarting six-nation talks.

Under a disarmament pact signed in 2005 with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees. In 2007, the country agreed on the initial disarmament steps — disabling its main nuclear facilities in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of energy aid and other benefits.

The disarmament process, however, has been stalled over a disagreement with Washington over how to verify the North's nuclear activities.

Obama said Sunday that the launch poses "a threat to the northeast Asian region and to international peace and security."

He said North Korea's act was "a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind."

"With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations," he said. "I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions."

Diplomats at the U.N. say the U.S., Britain, France and South Korea already have begun discussing a possible Security Council resolution to reaffirm its existing sanctions on North Korea.

The diplomats said the U.S., Britain and France, each of which holds veto power on the 15-nation council, are unlikely to seek new sanctions in the face of probable resistance from China, North Korea's closest ally, and Russia, the other two nations with veto power.

They spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.