A South Korean naval vessel fired five shots as a warning to a North Korean patrol boat that briefly moved south of the countries' disputed boundary line in the Yellow Sea, Seoul's defense ministry said Monday.
A South Korean military official told the Yonhap news agency that the North Korean vessel retreated northward after the warning shots were fired into the water. However, the incident underscores the heightened hostilities between the two Koreas.
The brief encounter came hours after the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket that world leaders described as a banned test of ballistic missile technology and South Korea's president called another "intolerable provocation."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with the launch just two hours after an eight-day window opened early Sunday, and a month after the country's fourth nuclear test. He ignored an appeal from China, its neighbor and important ally, not to proceed, and, in another slap to Beijing, he chose to launch the rocket on the eve of Chinese New Year, the country's most important holiday.
China and the United States have been negotiating the text of a new Security Council sanctions resolution since Pyongyang's Jan. 6 nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. That claim has been met with outside skepticism.
The U.S., backed by Japan and South Korea, wants tough U.N. sanctions reflecting Kim's defiance of the Security Council. But diplomats say China, the North's key protector in the council, is reluctant to impose economic measures that could cause North Korea's economy to collapse — and a flight of North Koreans into China across their shared border.
The 15-member Security Council strongly condemned the launch and pledged to "expeditiously" adopt a new resolution with "further significant measures" — U.N. code for sanctions. The word "robust" referring to the measures was in an initial draft, but was dropped in the final statement.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters that "it cannot be business as usual" after two successive North Korean acts that are "hostile and illegal."
"What's important is that the Security Council unites," Power said. "China is a critical player. ... We are hopeful that China, like all council members, will see the grave threat to regional and international peace and security, see the importance of adopting tough, unprecedented measures, breaking new ground here, exceeding the expectations of Kim Jong Un."
However, China's U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, made clear that unprecedented sanctions aren't Beijing's priority.
He said a new resolution should "do the work of reducing tension, of working toward denuclearization (of the Korean peninsula), of maintaining peace and stability, and of encouraging a negotiated solution."
"I believe the council needs to work together for a new resolution," Liu added, indicating that China may want negotiations with the United States to be widened.
Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, whose country is also a North Korean ally, said: "It has to be a weighty resolution, but it also has to be a reasonable resolution" that doesn't lead to North Korea's economic or humanitarian collapse, or further heighten tensions.
Russia's goal is to see six-party talks aimed at denuclearization resume, he said, but in the current atmosphere that's unlikely because the North Koreans "have been very unreasonable" and are challenging the entire international community.
"We think this is wrong for their national interests ... for the Korean Peninsula ... for the region," Churkin said.
North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space program, said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after liftoff, and vowed more such launches. A U.S. official said it might take days to assess whether the launch was a success.
But in Pyongyang, North Koreans celebrated the launch with an official fireworks display Monday night, state broadcaster KCTV reported, according to CNN.
Japan's U.N. ambassador, Motohide Yoshikawa, told reporters the missile, which went over Japan and landed near the Philippines, was "a clear threat to the lives of many people."
The Security Council underscored that launches using ballistic missile technology, "even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle" contribute to North Korea's development of systems to deliver nuclear weapons and violate four Security Council resolutions dating back to the North's first nuclear test in 2006.
North Korea under Kim Jong Un has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy meant to collapse Kim's government.
In a development that will worry both Pyongyang and Beijing, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official, Yoo Jeh Seung, told reporters that Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the THAAD missile-defense system in South Korea. North Korea has long decried the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and Beijing would see a South Korean deployment of THAAD, which is one of the world's most advanced missile-defense systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.
In a statement, North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration, in typical propaganda-laden language, praised "the fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star."
Juche is a North Korean philosophy focusing on self-reliance; the Day of the Shining Star refers to the Feb. 16 birthday of Kim Jong Un's father, former dictator Kim Jong Il. North Korea has previously staged rocket launches to mark important anniversaries.
Fox News' Jonathan Wachtel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.