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. BSVA

    North Korea's government has shown that it is, collectively, an unstable, petulant child–it has shown it through acts exactly like this one. That is the reason that the international community doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear or even ICBM capabilities. It's not about "it's OK for the US so why not NK"; it's about North Korea's government being too unstable to trust with these things.

    April 5, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Willy Brown

    I didn't know that teleprompter's could wake anyone up let alone dial a phone number.

    April 5, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. Dan

    Hey, look at the bright side, at least he didn't run off and attack the wrong country! Or call for more tax cuts for the rich. Or award another no-bid contract to one of Darth Cheney's companies.

    April 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. Is NK really that dangerous??

    Honestly, I'm not convinced N. Korea is that dangerous, and I'm not convinced that our "diplomatic" focus should be on NK "developing" a nuclear weapons program. Normally, isn't it the guys who say "we don't have weapons" that actually have the weapons? NK has been continuously stating that they are developing a highly volatile nuclear weapons system, while all Iran does is deny deny deny. Where should our focus be? On a leader who is so sick and old (Kim Jung ILL) that he makes, at most, 2 outside appearances per year? Or should be be focusing on the very public figure (Ahmedinejad), who has the audacity to grant an interview to a "prominent" American news outlet, and publicly humiliate our country and our values? I think our focus is wrong, our avenue is the incorrect one, and our "diplomatic strategies" ("Don't you do it again!) are going to run out of steam rather quickly. In the words of Dave Chappelle: "Hey, U.N., sanction me. Sanction me with your army. Oh wait, you don't have an army? Then shut (deleted) up!" Sanctions are the way to go. Oh wait... no they aren't. HEY AMERICA! FLEX YOUR MUSCLES! This is what inexperience gets us.... just remember one thing – had Clinton had the cahones the pull the trigger on Bin Laden in 1996, we would not be in Afghanistan digging through sand trying to find his cave.

    April 5, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  5. Holly - MO

    What so funny is that some of you say u supported Obama and now you don't. Give all of who are at least truthful that u didn't support him in Nov. and still don't support him now.

    No I did not vote for the current President but I'm definitely in agreement to him on his stance abroad and here in America on some of the issues at hand. What the h*ll do u really want in to do in two months to fix all the ills that over the years. I say, to those of you who can't come up with a better way...stop typing nonsense!

    NK was not going to do anything.....they don't even had a strong military force (read your history)! BTW if the launch would have form any sort of threat – it would have been shot down immediately. I do agree John King is not being neutual – who cares!

    This administration is a much better choice than what the republicans had – especially the whinning, ambition clueless woman (Palin).

    April 5, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. catmom

    I am curious for all the naysayers here, what would you have done? Drop a bomb, start another war, threaten them and everyone else that America will do something with them or without them but to do what? You people are really pathetic. You have nothing better to do than to criticize everything Obama. Republicans have yet to offer any viable solution to any of the problems that face us either domestically or foreign, other than to continue to criticize our President. Obviously Republicans have no solutions, if they did why didn't they implement them when they controlled the government?

    April 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. Gavin

    Ok Im so confused why people bash our president so much. When these are the SAME people who said never to bash president Bush beause the president always deserve some respect. Well way to be the biggest hypocrites in history. I dunno maybe cause most of the people on here are on or over 35. People are still stuck in cold war times. I mean my god im 18 and even I RATIONALIZED and THOUGHT out everything. I realized that N. Korea would not possibly launch an attack. Why would they? They are just as diplomatic as us and realize the enormous setback and public outcry of such an attack. The entire world would be against them, which they do realize. And whats with all the teleprompter crap? George Bush always talked with a teleprompter and STILL managed to mess up everything that came out of mouth. Now do not rebuttle this educated comment by putting me down a crazy or obama loving liberal. Because im not. I consider myself independent. I have some conservative and liberal views. So please dont act uneducated and just verbally berate me over the internet. Please have a GOOD rebuttle.

    April 5, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Bob

    Yo, Independent Jim. I trust you are not a current or former employee of the federal government for, if you are and Obama had not helped out AIG, you would be out your retirement...ever. Not only does AIG insure some banks overseas, it also administered the federal government's pension fund. No AIG, no pension fund.

    April 5, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Leilani

    Great comment arno @ April 5th, 2009 9:54 am ET

    Kim Jong Il knew they would have to respond and therefore got the results he wanted. It was a catch 22 for world leaders.

    April 5, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. yuri

    And we are awaitin' BHO'S strategic response. We learn that the North Korean missile didn't make it to the orbit and its payload was unclear as well.

    April 5, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Lil

    To those of you who think the U.S. should have shot down the missile. I think that you are wrong. It has been reported that the U.S. was already on alert with ships in the Sea of Japan with the capability to shoot down the missile if the U.S. or its allies were threatened. I think that you have to think not only of yourselves,but also your allies. We don't know what other strategy the administration had in mind. I don't think any good general would reveal his strategy in advance.

    If the U.S. did anything irrational, sure North Korea may not threaten the U.S. because they are aware of the U.S.' military capabilities, but they may go after the allies in the area such as Japan or South Korea.

    Do you really need another war????

    There have been many discussions on this blog and elsewhere about President Obama's use of a teleprompter. I think it is a silly discussion. What is the difference between President Obama using a teleprompter and others using paper? I think the teleprompter makes President Obama look more professional. Until the media pointed it out, I am sure many people did not realize he was using a teleprompter.

    Yes Mr, Obama has a speech writer as all government officials do especially when they have to face the media, but the final vetting is with that person giving the speech.

    I think the true test of President Obama's intelligence should be measured not by his use of the teleprompter, but by his responses in town hall meetings where he does not know the questions in advance and he has to think on his feet. I think he has done very well in those situations.

    I do wish President Obama well because as the saying goes when "America sneezes the rest of the world gets a cold".

    April 5, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Obama 08

    I'm sick of the US always having to do everything. Why can't China just go in there and beat the crap out of North Korea? China has the largest military in the world, and they're using it to torture the Tibetans.

    April 5, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  13. kathy, ca.

    and the U.S. and the U.N. will shake their fingers and say.... no, no, no.... what else is new....

    and the "so what" attitude.... nothing is going to happen as a result of the launch.... seems like we had that attitude on September 10th, 2001.... plenty of warnings.... plenty of finger shaking.... embassies blown up around the world, the Cole bombing; but alas, nothing is going to happen here....

    April 5, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Bill

    Let me get this right the Right wing of the Republicans supportors Neocons would like the US to attack North Korea. Look our troops are tied up in two wars now. If all the right Neocons of the Republican party join the arm services and grab a gun let see how right wing they are? I would suspect they are all talk and will not join the arm services.

    April 5, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. adam

    am I the only one that realized that this rocket was carrying a satelite...much like the ones the US sends up every week of the year? It went up launched the satelite with no harm to the US...why would we shoot it down? sounds like the same crazy fools that wanted us to go to IRAQ for the invisible WMDs. Shooting down the missle wouldn't have helped the US's cause. It would have further isolated us from the rest of the world. Aparently thats what these crazy rightwingers want. They want us to crawl into a ball and have the whole world against us. They need to realize, this world is getting smaller, and the relationships between nations throughout the world have become more important than ever. It would be a bad move on our part to continue to react without thinking, without taking into account other coutnries as we had the last 8 years. That would lead to our own destruction.

    April 5, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. catmom

    I wonder how many of you commenting here realise that the missile launch was a failure? Listening to your comments you all would have had President Obama start another war then whine and complain when he would have to institute the draft to fight that war. .

    April 5, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. anthony capretta

    The world will continue to do as it pleases with or without America.

    April 5, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. richard

    There was no need to even wake Obama. The early-morning call of an international crisis they speak of hasn't happened yet. There is nothing he could of done or would have done so he could have waited till the morning to hear the news and write his speech. .

    What worries people is wondering what will Obama do at 3am if there is a REAL crisis and how and if he would react to the situation. If that satellite was a warhead heading towards California, I bet Obama would have done nothing different. Words and threats only get you so far.

    April 5, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Keith

    We may not have shot it down with a missile but maybe an EMP beam or something. I wouldnt doubt it at all.

    Who ever the president is has nothing to do with any of this. The bickering is completely childish think about it. Left right, in the middle we are all americans and if a missile is heading this way regardless of who is president it doesnt have a chance in hell of reaching us.

    The only thing that has worked so far were passenger planes.

    I am an American...That comes first. Please dont forget that folks.

    April 5, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. Joseph

    With just short 3 months after 2008 November election, Hillary Clinton's prediction rapidly came true; Obama got a 3 AM phone call. Well, what can Obama do? Our president thinks that beautiful words may sway North Korea and other terrorist countries. This is a 1st lesson he learns. More 3 AM calls would come if the trend continues.

    Should CNN publish my post?

    April 5, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  21. Sam Jones

    I really wish all the right-wing people who comment would simply think about what they're saying before saying it. If the missile was a threat then it would have been shot down. The trajectory was out to open sea which is why they didn't.

    In general, not that North Korea by any stretch of the imagination should be trusted, but what right does any country have to tell another they can't launch satellites into space? I personally don't think North Korea should be launching anything, since it's most likely all a sham to build better missiles to sell to Syria, but generally speaking, it's pretty hard to get countries like China and Russia on board, who have some sway with North Korea, if the U.S. comes off as dictating right and wrong.

    April 5, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  22. Jimmy

    Had GWB reacted the same way as Obama, the left would yelling from the mountaintops! The double standard is ridiculous. GWB went to Europe many time, including G-20 summits.....did he get 1/4 of the press Obama got? This slobbering love affair is an embarrassing to our nation. We need to lead, not listen. Remember what the world was like when we "listened" to Europe....Hilter, Facism. , Stalin, communism.......just wait, you'll see.

    April 5, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  23. Pissed in Chicago.

    I'm appalled, and thoroughly disgusted, by all of the comments below suggesting that military action was the first and only response that should have been made. Some of you seem to be suffering under the misapprehension that a violent intervention is the only way to solve any problem that occurs outside of our borders, and is probably the way to solve most of the problems that occur within these United States. Three words, people: READ YOUR HISTORY.

    Violence and human rights atrocities have always been the worse in the wake of militaristic intervention/occupation. If Iraq has demonstrated anything to us, it should be that it's not possible (nor is it our job) to stay and run a country that is not ours and doesn't want to be run by us. Saying that it is our job amounts to the rankest sort of modern Imperialism.

    As Americans, as a leading nation in the world and at the UN, it is our responsibility to issue the very stern reprimands and warnings, and if we promise violent retribution, yes, to follow through. But we should NOT fly off the handle and start shooting. In case you didn't remember, we're already involved in one war. If you think our soldiers' lives and happiness (or ANYONE'S life and happiness) should be more readily spent than words and diplomatic means because the ends justify the means, then I suggest you leave America and seek out a nice fascist nation where nobody cares about human rights. I'm sure you'll fit right in.

    April 5, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. anthony

    If President Bush were still in office, he would have denounced North Korea for being in the "Axis of Evil" and the UN for doing nothing, threatened not to talk to North Korea, re-invaded Iraq, and demanded the Congress to approve more tax cuts. In other words, he would have done what he had planned to do anyway.

    April 5, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Votr

    North Korea will prove to be Obama's legacy of world terror and death left for the next President (George Bush vs Clinton's legacy) to hamstrung and attempt to deal with it properly. Of course the liberal elite's (who are always correct) will work to spin this to their advantage.

    April 5, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
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