N Korea sanctions considered

SEOUL –– North Korea’s neighbours on Monday began forming penalties against the country for its long-range missile test over the weekend, with South Korea saying it may start to develop bigger missiles and Japan considering an extension of economic sanctions.

North Korea on Sunday conducted its third test ever of a long-range missile, defying a test ban imposed by the U.N. Security Council and critics from around the world. In a meeting Sunday afternoon in New York, the 15-nation council discussed a resolution to punish North Korea but didn’t immediately agree on what it would say.

North Korea launched a long-range rocket over Japan, drawing swift international condemndation and sparking a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Since the early 1990s, North Korea has taken steps designed to test new leaders.

The three-stage rocket failed during its second stage and plunged into the Pacific Ocean about 1,300 kilometers east of Japan, according to analysts in the U.S., Japan and South Korea. On Monday, Russia, a country more friendly to North Korea than the other three, also announced that the missile appeared to fail before reaching its third stage, according to news service reports.

Even so, the launch itself represented an advance in the country’s decades-long effort to develop sophisticated weapons. And it showed that North Korea continues to build its capabilities without regard for international condemnation or consequences.

Diplomats in several countries are now struggling to balance steps that would have some effect on Pyongyang while also avoiding the appearance of overreacting to a development that posed no immediate military danger.

In South Korea, officials are considering their own program of long-range missile development, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo told a legislative hearing. Such a step would require permission from the U.S. because a mutual defense treaty between the allies now prevents Seoul from research work on missiles that can go farther than 300 kilometers or 187 miles.

Unlike Japan, South Korea hasn’t joined in the U.S. missile defense research program. In the weeks leading up to North Korea’s launch, Japan and U.S. military officials said they believed they now had the capability to shoot down the missile. They didn’t try on Sunday, however.

In Tokyo, officials said Monday that Japan will likely decide on Friday whether or not to extend existing sanctions toward North Korea. Since 2006, Japan has extended the sanctions every six months, but is now considering extending them for a full year.

North Korea’s news agency on Sunday announced that the missile flew to space and placed a satellite in orbit and that the launch was watched by the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Il. Although it didn’t achieve what North Korea said it did, the missile flew farther than two previous long-range missiles that were tested in 1998 and 2006.