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. PhilC

    Is CNN American?

    It seems that CNN is more interested in bad things happened on Obama than anything else to the country. Latest example. Why G-20 and Nato not committing to everything what Obama's administrations hoped for are considered a total failure to the administrations? Is CNN missing the point? Do you think G-20 will just come in and say "Sure, here you go..!" Are these counties the idiots like Bush? Even Bush back then has mostly only support from British. It is only fair that they have their own concerns coming from the past history of 8 years. There is the first step. Right? To see Obama mingling and talking among G-20 at ease and be able to strike a different tone in such a short time is encouraging. But instead every CNN news segment is about how so bad he only got 1.5 trilions and 3000+ troops fair reporting and how he didn't get what he wanted. And that contributes to the failure of his trip. Is that fair reporting? Is that balance and objective news to the American interests? Or CNN has turned into those gossip news or like those developing countries government controlled type news. I guess bad news is good business, especially for Republicans and Republicans minded.

    I missed the good old CNN during Diane Sawyer, Mike Chinoy.... And I think Ed Henry and John King are clowns.

    April 5, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Ann

    Lead baby lead!! This is a leader.

    April 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. Tracy

    Do you really think the NKs are stupid enough to launch a nuke toward the U.S. or its allies when the Russians, with their thousands of nukes, haven't? They are smart enough to realize that any missile headed even slightly toward the U.S. or its allies would mean the total annihilation of their country. This is just to get a little attention, so I'm not worried in the least.

    April 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. Zalmo

    And which portion of the US Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force would you have fight NK? The portion that's tied up in Iraq or the portion that's tied up in Afghanistan. Anyone who thinks we should start a war with NK over this get yourself down to a recruiter and get your enlistment date set, then demand that the military send YOU to the front lines to fight the NK. The men and women we have currently engaged will surely thank you for your support in deeds more than just empty bold jingoistic slogans and slurs against their commander in chief. Our armed forces are already overtaxed by two wars and many of the posters here think we should send them into a third, what great leadership that would show by Obama, completely exhaust our military, glad to see cooler heads sometimes prevail. This train of thought keeps up and there won't be too many Republicans left, they'll all be off fighting wars that THEY support and provide manpower to support.

    April 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. the rector

    Since when does the US have the right to deny other countries the right to explore their own world as we have been doing for the past century and more? Where dose the moral authority come from, since we are the only nation to openly use nukes in war, without any reason by the way, to decimate a population? This government has used chemical and germ warfare, and refuses to stop using cluster bombs and land mines. If I were Kim Jung Il, or anyone else for that matter, it would be very hard for me to head the warnings of such a hypocritical government. And the idea that this is a crisis is ridiculous, unless you are referring to the chest thumping and saber rattling having absolutely no effect, then that is a crisis for the paper tiger, sleeping giant, wind bag self interested politicians who think they are the masters of the universe. Time has come to remind these "people" who they work for. They are all the same, they will take as much as we let them, Obama along with the rest. If you trust any politician to do the right thing without a gun to his/ her head then you deserve what you get. When a long train of abuses..... oh forget it no one is listening anyway, good luck with your messiah, just remember I told you so.

    April 5, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. ib

    Is ist possible the left wingers will look at Obama saying we are arrogant and realize how stupid and weak Obama sounds?? I doubt it they will just blame Bush as usual.

    April 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. Fed Up

    If you launch that missle, I'm going to tell the UN!

    April 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. The peoples irresponsible Choice

    Terry if you sleep well at night knowing Obama is president with Iran and North Korea with nukes then you have been drinking too much Obama kool aide. Apparently you have forgotten that he wants to eliminate the missile defense system and goes overseas calling our great nation arrogant, dismissive and derisive. Is this treason?

    April 5, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. Eric

    Serious question here – –

    This CNN story states that Gibbs woke "O" up at 4:30am. What time zone was that? I had a tweet come in from the NY Times at about 1:30am EDT Sat. night/ EARLY Sunday morning.

    If Gibbs called/nudged O up (with a cookie in hand – funny) at 4:30, that would've made the event occur at 10:30 PM EDT.

    When did the actual launch take place?

    - I just checked that NYT story again:
    "North Korea launched the rocket at 11:30 a.m. local time, or 10:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, said the office of the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. "

    ***SO... Who is it that determines that something is important enough news to send it out on a feed so that it gets to the people?


    April 5, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. luciano del aqua

    Don – I saw the video of which you speak . It reminds many of us of Neville Chamberlain's surrender to Adolph Hitler. It was a disgusting and frightening display of intellectualy midegetry.

    April 5, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. Rosa

    "Give the devil his due". Bush messed up America and the whole world. Now he is peacefully enjoying his well provided retirement in his new million dollar home. As for Obama, I honestly think he is working hard to clean up the mess and getting all the blame right or wrong....

    April 5, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. L.C.

    Let's see...

    If Bush got the call, he would've bombed the wrong something and thought about the consequences a few billion dollars later

    If Sarah got the call, she'd ask her adviser's where North Korea was

    If Jack Bauer got the call, it would've come by way of leak that Chloe picked up through her "sources" prior to the rocket launch. Then he would've called Tony, and well you know the rest...


    April 5, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. jj

    I love our new President. The US has regained it footing on the world stage again.

    April 5, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  14. jimmy

    YES YES YES!!!

    there are currently close to


    nuclear war heads in the world.

    gagging while saying this "thanks to reagan starting the whole disarmement thing" that huge numbers is far smaller than what were once in the world during the height of the cold war.

    BUT 22,000 is far too many to end all life on earth. We can destroy everything and bomb humanity into non existence many times over.

    DISARM!!! nukes

    April 5, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. Tracy

    Additionally, the NKs fired a few missiles during the Bush Administration and nothing more was done then than Obama can do now, which is rally our allies to strengthen sanctions. What are we supposed to do invade their country because they tested a missile? Are we supposed to get in another war because of this missile launch? All you people that are criticizing President Obama over this situation, please tell me what you would have done to stop the NKs from launching the missile. People that criticize with no solutions are completely WORTHLESS

    April 5, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Benson

    Yes it's his fault 20k people in Prague show up to hear him speak.

    Americans should stop their Arrogance and enjoy their President too!

    April 5, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  17. Hypocrisy

    I'm glad to hear Obama can operate a mobile phone. Pressing the green button and listening into the correct end of the phone can be quite difficult. This is truly reflective of the President's foreign policy skills.

    CNN: This is one of the dumbest articles you've ever written.

    April 5, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. aaron

    for all of those saying why be afraid of n korea, they have the 4th largest army in the world, the most complex system of underground caves, and the tension in the area could lead to ww3, hmm yea no reason to be afraid, sending in troops with all those caves would be ten times worse than the urban warfare in iraq

    April 5, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Jon

    to Sumaya Conners,

    msnbc has the same article i dont know what your thinking its still news atleast Obama will not got to war with north korea for something stupid like that they do have weapons of mass destruction and wage a 9 year war on them and drive the U.S. economy down the drain and have more countries hate us.

    April 5, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. Mike in NM

    Kim Jong-(Mentally) Il notwithstanding, how do we (US) continue to put communication satellites into orbit and tell others they cannot? I support Obama's stance here, but how long can the haves continue to dictate to the have-nots? I suppose as long as we...have.

    April 5, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  21. Steve

    So after he woke up, he went back to bed. What a naive dud. CNN, you owe us an apology for helping this guy to be elected.

    April 5, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. jeff

    how did Obama rally the world obviously you left wingers haven't been paying attention

    April 5, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. Benjine

    I was in the front row. Yet another astonishing speech from this most wondrous of men. Its about time somebody actually stood up and had the balls to support a nuclear free world. There's no need for these weapons. They are the ultimate in anti-human.

    After the speech I shook 44's hand. Wished him god speed. Michelle stroked my arm.

    He has more charisma in one of the molecules of his left toe than most of us will ever possess throughout our lifetimes. America – and the world – is truly truly blessed to have President Obama at this moment in history.

    April 5, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Simmy

    President Obama is doing a great job! The Cult of Criticism will always do what they do best......criticize. Now they're upset because the economy is seeming to come back to life, thus spoiling their mantra of failure. As for the 3am or 4am calls; my president is the right person in office. I am sure beyond the shadow of a doubt, because great men are the ones greatly challenged. The mark of their fortitude and legacies, rest on how they overcome all odds, shut up critics, and succeed. President Obama is next in line......Peace.

    April 5, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. a canuck

    Some of you Americans are ridiculous.....your President is doing an amazing job under the circumstances....and you should be proud...give the guy a break !!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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