April 5th, 2009
06:45 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama gets oft-debated early morning call on N. Korea

Obama was awakened early in the morning with news North Korea launched a rocket.
Obama was awakened early in the morning with news North Korea launched a rocket.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (CNN) - Visiting Prague, Czech Republic, U.S. President Barack Obama was awakened at 4:30 a.m. Sunday with the news that North Korea had launched a rocket, as it had threatened to do over the past several weeks.

During his presidential campaign, Obama and former rival Hillary Clinton debated over who would be better qualified to take a hypothetical early-morning call of an international crisis. But in Prague, where both Obama and Clinton - now Secretary of State - are participating in the European Union summit, they acted in concert.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he personally woke up the president to tell him the launch had been confirmed. Obama consulted with his top aides - some by phone and others in person, as some are traveling with him. They included Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and various other intelligence officials.

Emerging from meetings with the Czech Republic's president and prime minister, Obama said Sunday that Clinton and the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, were also "reaching out to our friends and allies" ahead of the U.N. Security Council's emergency meeting to be held in New York later in the afternoon.

"North Korea made a launch this morning that defies U.N. Security Council resolutions, that harms peace and stability for Northeast Asia," the president said.

Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibits the regime from conducting ballistic missile-related activities. The council adopted the resolution in 2006 after North Korea conducted a test of a nuclear weapon.

"This action demands a response from the international community, including from the United Nations Security Council, to demonstrate that its resolution cannot be defied with impunity," Obama said.

Obama also called on North Korea to "abandon its nuclear programs" and to "work to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia." As for the timing of the launch coming right before his speech on nuclear non-proliferation, Obama said the "launch only underscores the urgency" of his agenda.

The launch was not a surprise, Gibbs said. The president has been involved in several meetings about the potential North Korea launch over the past three to four weeks, and it was anticipated and planned for.

"Had at any moment we determined the launch posed a threat to the United States of America, we would have taken whatever steps were necessary to ensure the safety and security of the American people," Gibbs said.


Filed under: Extra • North Korea • President Obama
soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. keevan d. morgan

    yeah, obama got the call and the response was just as hillary and biden foretold–he ran to the u.n. where a "resolution" (which will not pass) is intended to keep north korea in line.

    heck, if the u.n. wagged its collective finger at me, personally, i'd just put a scarecrow in the front yard and know i'd be safe. we'd be better off saying absolutely nothing, but just letting one of our fully nuclear-armed submarines surface for 15 minutes off the coast of north korea and send the tape to cnn to play and the north koreans to view, with a copy to the iranians.

    keevan d. morgan, chicago

    April 5, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Texas Teacher

    I'm reading some folks here who want Obama to invade N. Korea... jump on them with both feet! That is Bush/Cheney's game plan. They have stretched us way too thin with that sort of policy. Obama is not a Western Cowboy! He has the sense to know that more war is not the answer! We've had war for 6 years... and the gain? NONE... we have been throwing our money and our young men and women into a country that had nothing to do with 9/11... a private war for private reasons. Afganistan is the target that we should have focusing on.. but we did NOT. Now it is a powder keg. And we still have people who think that war is the only answer!

    War is out dated! We should be realizing that at the beginning of the 21st century. NOT the answer. The whole world has to get so down on this country and its just crazy leader that there is no mistake that WE, the World, will no longer tolerate those who want violence to resolve differences. If not now? When?

    April 5, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Obama is appeasing North Korea....

    and he's going to get us all killed. Bush would have taken out that missile before it was launched and we would have been much safer.

    Now we have a rogue state with nuclear and rocket capability who might either use it themselves or sell it to Al Qaeda, Iran, or anyone else with the money North Korea needs.

    April 5, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. justiceforall

    Exactly what did he do Barry lovers? Nothing. Exactly why N. Korea did it. They knew he was spineless with his idle threats. The floodgates will open now that the world knows he will do nothing. Maybe you can't see clearly from the brown stain.

    April 5, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Mary

    I think President Obama is doing a great job and anyone that can't see that---–shame on them.

    April 5, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. Alton Simmonds

    Well we see that the big flaw of the campaign has been answered. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton got the wake up calls they talk about during the campaign. Now we know they both answer the call and that flaw is at rest. Pres. Obama and Secretary Clinton are true Americans with the same values at hand for the Americans people.

    April 5, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Vtercell

    North Korea took America's temperature and knows perfectly well it can do whatever it wants. They realize that the United States emasculated itself last November.

    As does Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China, and everyone else.

    This is the sort of Change we can berieve in.

    April 5, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Rossano

    Thank you mr. President~

    You can Imagine Palin at this time of our country!

    April 5, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Mikhailovich

    I think everyone should take a deep breath. So what if N. Korea launched a rocket which achieved its objectives or not. The USA threatens N. Korea on a regular basis. If I were a N. Korean, I would be trying to figure out how to defend myself, and I suppose that is what the North Koreans are doing.

    April 5, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. nada

    Wow, and you call yourselves Americans? you do know that the terrorists are doin the samething you are right now, they're sittin around saying how they cant stand their leaders and the policies they use, so they call those suicide bombings just. so you saying you're not patriotc anymore? do you wanna join a cell or somethin? get back on the page you would've been on if bush were here. do you feel better now? okay now snap out of it and realize what you're sayin when you say we should shoot first, and any other option is not a strong one, or unacceptable. do you really think we can go around playin john wayne and fight with who ever when ever? we're not talking a boxing match, we're talkin lives and money and time(iraq is a good example) it does not matter how big a country is,duh! one word vietnam. in this day and time we use brains, the caveguys used brawn, but then of course they're extinct, another example fer ya.

    April 5, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. John86

    Face it, North Korea is a primitive nation when it comes to these kinds of things. Yes, it was a failure, but it was still a very hostile gesture to launch the missile even after strict warning from several countries.

    April 5, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    @ Terry,

    I'd much rater have Newt Gingrich.

    @ Alvino:

    The North Koreans established their nuclear program under the Clinton Administration. Check your facts.

    April 5, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. The Teester

    The problem with our country is not JUST the trouble and mess the Republicans got us into but that they CONTINUE to make it bad on us by their pessimism and narrow minds. They are truly the party of NO and hopefully will soon be the party of "No More". This is a plea to the rest of us, the red-blooded Americans who want us, our country and our President to succeed. Lets get with our President and our country and let the whiny Red Big Fat Elephant become extinct as they only hurt us–the true traitors of our nation.

    April 5, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. Sandy

    His reaction??? The same as GWB just sitting there for 7 minutes after the beginning of Sept 11 2001 attacks...He is just sitting there
    ----

    WHERE do you see that "he was just sitting there?" I read:

    "The launch was not a surprise, Gibbs said. The president has been involved in several meetings about the potential North Korea launch over the past three to four weeks, and it was anticipated and planned for.

    Obama consulted with his top aides — some by phone and others in person, as some are traveling with him. They included Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones,
    Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and various other intelligence officials.

    Emerging from meetings with the Czech Republic's president and prime minister, Obama said Sunday that Clinton and the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, were also "reaching out to our friends and allies" ahead of the U.N. Security Council's emergency meeting to be held in New York later in the afternoon."

    HARDLY the same as continuing to read a child's book to children for 20 minutes or so, which is what W. did when he was told of the 9/11 attacks.

    April 5, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. James M.

    Nancy...you were not an Obama supporter and aren't one now. who are you kidding?

    First of all, to suggest that Obama should have ordered the US to shoot down an object that US intel had traced as not even nearing orbital flight status would have been completely the wrong action to take...you are basically suggesting that US shoot down anything currently in the air...ie commercial airliners, airplanes flying in their own air space, oh and don't forget...er birds!

    Obama did the right thing by consulting with the members of his cabinet and not acting on impulse but exercising not taking the bait that is North Korea.

    April 5, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. Ann

    It really is very pitiful thata we have this minority of right wingers who are so shallow and bitter. They cannot handle it that the majority of Americans, yes, by a landslide, overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats and Obama. It is hilarious when the Republicans get on the news, and say they want what is best for the American people. Hello? You have no right to say that. You are a mere minority of extremists who are angry and hostile and malicious who will stop at nothing to try to influence people in the negative. Thank God most Americans are above those tactics and thus have spoken by voting for major change. They this time, voted for intelligence, wisdom, and leadership that the international community is now respecting and applauding. It is really embarrassing that the Republicans can't get over it, stand behind our President, our country and really practice what they preach......patriotism and faith in our leadership and president. How can these extremistis call themselves Christian, when they are always looking for failure and the negative. What hypocrits.

    April 5, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Dee

    Put yourself in the president's place. What would you do? What would George do? Strike the missles? What would McCain do? Bomb, Bomb Korea...? Rather than striking first and thinking later, perhaps we should plan the next move.

    April 5, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. Amy

    The North Koreans have fired a rocket ....So what?
    The Pakistanis has nuclear weapons also..
    Stop being paranoids!
    We live within a world people....

    April 5, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Mike Mundy, Houston, TX

    Tag wrote:

    April 5th, 2009 12:48 pm ET

    These people who want us to invade yet another sovereign nation that does not pose any direct threat to the U.S. are scary. It's as if they want us to shove our guns in everyone's face and tell them what to do..

    At least we now know that Obama can effectively handle the 3 a.m. call. Yet another campaign attack disproven.
    ******************************

    No it doesn't! This prooves NOTHING of this president! Where is the line drawn, Tag??? Do we wait for N. Korea to put a nuclear war head on one of these rockets?? I'm certain, you would be the first to jump from a sinking ship, to save your own neck.

    You are delusional to think by Obama not giving the order to shoot the rocket down, is somehow a courageous decision. Ronal Reagan would not have TOLERATED this! Just more of Liberals in this country, putting American citizens at risk!

    April 5, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. Nisey01

    Something happens under all our watch. Revise and move on. Some things are destined to happen. Check it out in your own lives. See. Then, well, okay. This entire ordeal initiated in the previous administration , was improperly handled and has spilled over into another administration, okay and well. Have ever in life you had a situation from the past spill into your domain, okay, now. I have and will continue to have, yet I will address the issue with my best expertise possible. In this midst of this occurrence I do feel secure enough to know that President Obama understands the complexity and the originality of this ordeal to the point to revise a substantial protocol to combat the intent of N. Korea to the fullest whether it be regarding our safety, security or whatever connections it may concern. God Bless America!

    April 5, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. Sandy

    Ken K – The term "Drinking the Kool Aid" was coined after several cults in recent years all killed themselves by drinking poisoned Kool Aid. So to "drink the Kool Aid" now means to follow leadership blindly, even if it means your own death.

    April 5, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. Nija

    When former president was busy fighting Iraq North Korea was busy building weapons of mass destruction.

    April 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. AJ

    I know most of the folks that post here are radicals to the left or right, no matter how much some of you scream independent, then spew party line positions. But the expectations that people are putting on Obama as compared to what was expected of Bush are night and day. I think its ridiculous and hypocritical of the republicans and especially the media. He hasnt been in office but what 80 days, Yet the economy is supposed to be fixed over night, when it was broken over 8 years, there is supposed to be world peace and all our enemies are supposed to back down to us after being embolden by us sinking all our resources into a war we are still trying to find out way out of, Get real!!!

    April 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. john dicaro

    Amazing contrast from the trigger happy wing of the political spectrum! I don't believe the Cheney-Bush administration fired any guns aimed at the last North Korean missile launch did they? I think they did the right thing and went to the U.N. It may be a wise man that advised the wisdom of choosing your battles wisely.

    April 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. moderated

    This counts as news. Tomorrow we'll see Obama got a call at 3:00am, the economy's tanked, Europe doesn't want to spend more money

    Oh wait that already happened

    April 5, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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