A deadlock at the United Nations over how to censure North Korea for its rocket launch appeared to be easing, with the Japanese prime minister hinting Tokyo may be ready to back off from a demand for a new Security Council resolution.
Defying intense international pressure, North Korea launched what it said was satellite on April 5. The United States, Japan and South Korea claim it was really testing long-range missile technology, which Pyongyang is banned from doing under a 2006 resolution. North Korea says a satellite launch is allowed under a U.N. space treaty.
The Security Council has been divided since meeting in emergency session the day of the launch, with Japan and China at odds over how to proceed. Tokyo has pushed for a full resolution, while China pressed for a lighter reprimand.
Kyodo News agency, citing diplomatic sources it did not identify, reported late Friday from New York that the Japanese were expected to back off from their demand the council adopt a binding resolution and instead accept a draft presidential statement circulated Thursday night by the U.S.
The statement, drafted by China in consultation with Washington, would "condemn" Pyongyang's suspected test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile, Kyodo cited the sources as saying.
The five permanent members of the council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. — and Japan were expected to meet on Saturday to continue their discussions.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso also suggested earlier Friday that Tokyo may make concessions.
"Whether it be a statement, a resolution, or whatever format, what's most important is to convey a clear message from the global community," Aso told reporters in Tokyo before heading to Thailand to attend a regional summit.
Council diplomats said a presidential statement is a likelier option if they can write one that is strong enough. They spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about negotiations that happen behind closed doors.
Security Council resolutions are considered the strongest response the council can take. A presidential statement is considered a lesser response, though the United States and others believe it carries equal clout.
The council could adopt the statement through a vote next week if its five permanent members and Japan produce an agreement on its wording during their session Saturday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, also citing diplomatic sources.
Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, who held separate telephone talks with his South Korean and Chinese counterparts at the regional summit told reporters Saturday that the three shared the understanding that the global community should "promptly" send a solid and strong protest to North Korea.
"I told each of the ministers that it is important that the international community act as one and quickly issue a strong message," he said. "Both ministers share the same view."