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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/05/art.pres1.gi.jpg caption="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. Erik

    I am a Obama supporter, but we should of shot it down. It is a threat and the rest of the global community has agreed on that. Japan would of stood with us, along with most of NATO. It is a threat to let it go up, and somehow it needs to be destroyed at all costs, North Korea is far to unstable to allow to have such power on.

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

    The Obama Admin was expecting this launch. They wanted to know what the dang thing can do. Now they know. It couldnt have happened at a better time. He was preparing for a speech on nuclear proliferation.

    This act by N. Korea helped to wake up other countries to the potential threat. Now the President can say "Do you want that in your back yard".
    Maybe they will now get on board the plan to ban nuclear weapons.

    As far as going to war with N. K. over this, with what. The U.S. is stretched thin now and the last war with them didnt turn out so good. Sanctions by everyone including China is the way to go.

    April 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. David White

    Once again we go beyond politics and right to the hate, judgement, name calling, and downright negative attitude that precipitates more problems. The peoples voice has a right to be heard, but why is it the most ignorant voices seem to come out as the loudest? The saying "I am a master of my words unspoken, but a slave to those spoken in haste" comes to mind. President Obama is not a rash, "quick to judge" man, and I thank God he is in power, and not some of us here on this comment blog.

    April 5, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. Edgar

    Wow – Is acquiescence considered valid foreign policy these days? Apparently it is to the left-wing gomers posting on here. Appease, appease, appease! Now where have we heard that before?

    April 5, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. AncientRiver

    Awesome to have a president as condifent, intelligent and prepared as this one. What a change from poor little Bush, a man never equipped for the office he held. I often felt sorry for him. Can you imagine the antics of McCain int his situation? Thank God we are spared that. We are truly blessed to have a leader like Obama. Long time coming. God must love us after all.

    April 5, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. marc Blum

    What scares me more than Korea launching a missile – which is merely as a pitiful attempt to get the attention of the world – are the people who jump on board the republican "party line" bandwagon. If you haven't noticed, your so called party is fracturing because it lacks a firm understanding of the need for concrete thinking, and is afraid. They are fearful because they have lost the power to influence the government one way or the other, and now have to depend on their brains to create new ideas, rather than promote special interests, which doesn't require much thinking at all.

    Don't you think that the Obama administration had already discussed what their response would be, not if but when, the little crazy Korean man actually did fire his rocket? Don't you think the "shoot-em-up" Bush mentality has been proven wrong time and time again? What about diplomacy? Do you understand what that means? I give you a hint: the first action doesn't involve firing a bullet.

    Oh, and to the comment about Bush's "people" being responsible for the failings of his administration while in office. To put it into the most basic terms so their is no issues with translation, Bush was the "boss". He chose those people around him to support him in bringing to life real action, in response to real problems. Don't blame his people, that is just ignorant.

    We now have a new president who is faced with a great number of challenges. If you are a true American, with a basic understanding of what's happening before our very eyes, you wouldn't be talking about Obama's dependence on a teleprompter. Do you get your talking points from Hannity? Is that truly noteworthy? Haven't you seen Obama speak "off the cuff" a number of times without a teleprompter? Suppose not if you really payed close attention. Your party's response to Obama just reinforces Bush's failure to do his job, rather than playing nice in the sandbox like the rest of the little kiddies.

    Republicans are afraid and lack concrete constructive thinking, and it is only demonstrated by the finger pointing and childish behaviors. I have an idea, if you have any constructive ideas that you think might help the cause, send them to your representative. (BTW: a little secret, that is the way the system works if you haven't already been told). If you don't have any new ideas and just want to sling mud and make things worse, I would keep quiet. Otherwise you are just seek to propagate the ignorance of the right wing. All you are doing is making Bush your poster boy in the end.

    April 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. Ben

    Hate to dog on my own country, but not only does the US have the world's largest nuclear stockpile, but we are the ONLY nation to ever actually fire a nuke, and when we did, we launched against two primarily CIVILIAN targets.

    Even when we are absolutley right about how dangerous it would be for somebody else to have a nuclear program, our credibility is shot. The United Nations needs to step in on this as a whole, because unless we actually want to point guns at them and try to physically force them to stop, nobody in their right minds would agree that we have any say in who does and does not acquire nuclear weapons.

    April 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  8. Steve

    Pres. Obama's administration hasn't violated the Constitution you say?

    What about the taxing of AIG benefits paid out to the specific employees of a particular wing of that company? That is a breach of the Bill of Attainder law, which prohibits taxing specific peoples or groups of peoples.

    What about attempting to change the voting process from 60 votes to 51 in the Senate because they know they do not have the support to pass every bit of legislation that the President envisions to pass before the 2010 elections?

    I would not expect you to know these breaches, or comprehend the relevance of them because you unfortunately view Obama through rose-tinted glasses. So long as he continues to promise to pay your mortgage for you, or promise you that those who have worked hard for what they possess are mean-spirited evil people who will get what’s coming to them than he will have your unwavering support.

    This launch by N. Korea was handled by Bush once before, in 2006. I was actually onboard the USS Port Royal at the time. While we were still conducting shipboard operations testing the new ABCM capabilities installed onboard, we were capable and ready to act in defense of the nation, should we be called on.

    As I recall, Bush didn't get us into a war with N. Korea after that launch, which happened to be directed over Japan if I recall correctly, so your assertions that Bush would have involved the U.S. in another war are disproven.

    April 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  9. Peace

    Who deleted North Korea from the "terrorists list"? It was George Bush. What was he thinking??????? I wonder how he received this news!!!!

    April 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Old Army

    As an active duty Colonel with over 30 years of military service I appreciate wise leadership in crisis scenarios. President Obama is handling this situation with a maturity and wisdom totally absent from the Bush-Cheney years. The right-wing would better serve America with a hard look at reality, and not the reality created by conservative talk show hosts.

    April 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Sue M

    So glad it is Obama in charge and not Bush/ Chaney or we would be at War Again with another country........

    April 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Thank God Obama is our President. Just think about the damage John McCain would have done without thinking. The presidency office is not one for a hot head or for someone who misinterprets the powers of being president.

    April 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. sam

    Soooo many problems from past and present....and only one man.
    Obama is trying his very best to solve everything, so please people give him some time.

    April 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Maggie

    I really think they should have consulted President Bush before any action taken to see what he would do. he has keot us safe for 8 years and now what is happening.

    April 5, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. sabil jikiri

    the us and the un is always talking double standard specially in the context of violating UN Resolutions. If countries like North Korea, Iran, Iraq and even the helpless people of palestine allegedly violates UN resolutions the US and UN were immediate to condemn it and demand for punishment of the violators. But it seems per records if the US and/or its master the Jewish State of Israel violate it, nothing happened and the UN cowardly accepts it as an act of protecting peace...

    Im not for war nor evil use of technology for killing millions of people ... but I am looking for consistency and real adherence to the so called UN RESOLUTION... or UN ILLUSION... because unless the UN become impartial then it would always be a lapdog of the US.

    April 5, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Republicans are losers

    Obama is doing an amazing job. All you right wingers and conservative democrats need to sit back and enjoy all the benefits. Also, if you have some better idea's, not just the same failures that you have ruined the country with, then put them on the table. Until then you should really consider not talking at all.

    April 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. John Illinois

    What should be concerning everyone is Obama saying :All nations must come together to build a strong global regime". Global regime? As in New World Order? Sounds like Obama is in locked step with Gordon Brown regarding this and remember, Brown is a socilaist. What is that garbage?

    April 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. tom

    It is amazing to see the level of ignorance and downright sheepish naievity being demonstrated here by people who call themselves the model of the democratic principles of the civilized world.

    The current president listens reviews and " thinks" about all possible options available to him concerning a situation before he opens his mouth. This and not the 19th century principles of manifest destiny and racial superiority is what will truly separate us from the uncivilized and inferior of mind from around the world as well as within this country's very borders.

    So unless you have something to say that is not motivated by hate and ignorance, perhaps you should keep your thoughts to yourself and not spread your unamerican message to and already troubled people who are looking for a person to lead them into the future and not back into tha dark ages.

    April 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  19. AncientRiver

    Over reaction to a child's tantrums is encouraging to the child. The miltiary were keeping close tabs on that launch and would have destroyed it if it had posed a danger. Destroying it when it posed no danger would have wasted a great deal of military material and manpower. Patience and thoughtfulness should not be confused for unpreparedness. Reacting without thought was the Bush mantra-6 plus years of a ruinous war that has costed us a trillion dollars- and counting.

    April 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. Pragmatism Wins

    Have we learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? What would shooting this SCUD missile down do? It's good for about 10 minutes of chest thumping. Think about what our Nuclear Ballistic Missile program costs. If North Korea is going to starve about a million more people to put a missile system in place, I say let them. Then let's bomb them on the launch pad after they spent the money. Maybe they will start caring about their people by not letting them starve in the first place. Also, maybe a new missile defense system in Japan would work, and maybe the will be more friendly to the idea now. If not, then maybe Little Kim will learn the lesson of futility like Mum mar Kaddafi and cease being a pain in everyone's arse.

    April 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. Sandy

    I have to ask, do you think if you were in the president's shoes you would have turned the economy around in 10 weeks? Do you think you would have resolved the world issues in the same time. I think we need to give it some time. How long did it take to get into the position we are in right now? It wasn't overnight. And to think that it can be fixed that fast, people are not being realistic. I know we are all hurting right now and we want the bandaid but come on. Let's give Obama a chance before we say "see he couldn't do it".

    April 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. workndude

    Flex our military muscle? N. Korea has as much right to launch a rocket as we do.

    You just can't go around kicking sand in every nations face every time you feel like it. America needs to graduate from the 4th grade and resume being leader of the free world again, not bully of the world.

    April 5, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Jason

    big deal? It is my government – the one that steals my tax money to pay to profit off of fickle laws I never agreed to, the one that ignores me entirely and declares illegal wars in the name of global economic imperialism – it is this government that worries me.

    If a government like this can launch rockets unchecked – not even by the people who paid for the rockets (me), then there is no getting more dangerous. Let Korea develop whatever they want, they will not top us when it comes to putting the launch codes in the hands of corrupt and malicious politicians.

    April 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. Samuel Berg

    Mark my words. When it comes to foreign policy, Barack is going to end up being compared to Jimmy Carter. The man who stood back and scratched his head while 52 American diplomats were held hostage and paraded in front of the world media. It was one of America's weakest moments, all courtesy of good 'ol Jimmy. His feeble attempts to rescue the hostages made us look down right impotent to a rising terrorist nation, such as Iran. Fast forward to 2009, we're going to experience another malaise, courtesy of Jimmy Carter v.2.0.

    April 5, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Joyce

    Too many people here don't understand WHY nobody shot it down.
    It was a failure, never entered orbit. Had it been shot down, the world would not have known that.
    And as far as WHO'S place it was to shot down, it was Japan's place, not ours. It traveled over Japan, not the USA. And I'm sure Japan was ready to shot it down, had anything else gone wrong with it.

    April 5, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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