BEIJING - China urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to act carefully in responding to North Korea's rocket launch, maintaining there is a basic distinction between satellite and missile technology.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said North Korea's weekend launch had grave implications and the first response should be a forceful position taken at the United Nations.
The U.N. Security Council had held an emergency session on Sunday, but the 15 members agreed only to further discussions after North Korea launched its long-range Taepodong-2 rocket.
We believe the UN Security Council should act carefully concerning resolution 1718, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters, referring to the resolution passed after North Korea's nuclear test in 2006.
There are similarities but also differences between rocket and missile technology. Launching a satellite is different in nature from firing a missile or a nuclear test. This issue also involves the right of all countries to peaceful use of outer space.
Beijing had called for restraint after Pyongyang fired off the rocket on Sunday, and has resisted calls from Tokyo and Washington for a fresh Security Council resolution aiming sanctions at North Korea.
Analysts have said the North Korean rocket, which flew over Japan during its 3,200 km (2,000 mile) flight, was a test of a ballistic missile designed to hit as far as the U.S. state of Alaska. But China has lined up with North Korea in saying the launch was for a communications satellite.
China condemned North Korea's nuclear test blast in 2006. But Beijing worries harsh action over the rocket launch could hurt efforts to coax North Korea toward nuclear disarmament, and also strain its own ties with Pyongyang, analysts have said.