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. barry's toker man

    It's all Bush's fault, I tell ya. And the god king Obama is going to make the world perfect and peaceful. And make the North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran love us once again. And the universe will be in harmony, and everyone will get free cocaine. Yes, the god king Obama, praise him praise him all the little chilren.

    April 5, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. San

    Thank God Hillary is there to help him!

    April 5, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. Todd

    I'm quite sure that Israel will offer its complete cooperation in eliminating its stock of nuclear weapons.

    April 5, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. tracy

    Thats the change I voted for! democratic diplomacy not republican fear mongering.

    April 5, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Keepitreal

    Yes, Let's go back to the fear mongering of the illiterate monkey-boy speeches of the last eight years.

    April 5, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. independent liberal

    I thought Hillary ,would be answering the phone. The President shouldn't be disturbed by such nonsense.

    April 5, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. Juan

    The funny thing to me is that when Lil Bush was causing wars these same people who refuse to praise Obama obviously loved the fact that most countries just a few months ago hated us. Now that we have a true diplomat in office who is doing what leaders are supposed to do they are digging their heels in deeper.

    Truly, no matter what you say or how much you hate our president he is a leader who will be loved by the masses all over the world. And that will trump your feelings toward him any day. Strength is in numbers and if all of our allies want to work with us there is nothing we can't do to make this world a better place. When Bush was in office he threatened our allies into assisting us which I have never liked. I like the fact that the leader of my country is liked by other countries. Especially ones that have disliked us in the past.

    April 5, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Chris

    Our President is AWESOME!

    April 5, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. alvino

    North Korea establishes a nuclear program under Bush's watch, and the Crawford Cowboy responds by name calling. Remember Bush including N. Korea in his 'axis of evil?' Now that was really a tough stance by the worst president in history.

    April 5, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |

    Korea is trying our President to see what they can get away with.
    The punishment should be swift and harsh, they need to know that we will retaliate, and that there will be a heavy price to pay.
    I am sure that Obama will make this clear.

    April 5, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. Monica Williams

    Hey let's handle our business. My question for President Obama is will this be political business as usual or will we be triumphant this time? America he handled the call in the middle of the night just like I thought he would... a trooper. Next time... leave the bunny slippers under the bed dude.

    April 5, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. barry's toker man

    Dear a canuck – Your prime minister is wonderful.

    April 5, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  13. Marie

    As ususal this article is flawed.....they write as if the test launch was a surprise. It was fully anticipated and discussed publicly. Another sign as to why CNN has dropped to third place in the ratings war.

    The US stature in the world has risen dramatically since Nov 4, 2008 and was just solidified this past week during Obama's trip abroad. The old school Republicans need to come to the realization that the high speed rail change train has left the station and is moving fast so they should hang on for the ride or get out of the way.

    April 5, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. alvino


    I do not think I have read a better comment. Made my day.

    April 5, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. Ken Sawyer

    We don't have any friends or allies. Remember we are arrogant Americans and have our interest at stake only. We fight to save our own ass and never help anyone else in a crisis, especially the Brits, French, Russians,Poles, South Koreans, South Vietnamese, Italians starving Africans, Germans behind the Berlin wall, earthquake victims all over the world, flood victims, HIV victims which we infected on purpose, (according to some of our Black leaders). We have done a lot of bad things like dynamiting the dikes during Katrina.Our government blacked out the weather forecast for 7 days before Katrina and no one knew to leave. We were not as good as Noah was at getting the word out. We have the most successful conversion to a welfare state in the world and a secret conversion to Socialsim that is so covert no one even knows it has happened. Moderate this as you usually do and fall farther down the news polls.

    April 5, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. alvino

    Thank God the 'intellectual midget' and his faithful companion Cheney are no longer in office.

    April 5, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. James

    What exactly is going to happen with the nuke?? is it gonna hit?

    April 5, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. lulumckee

    The longest stretch of mass murders began shortly after Obama's ascension to the White House. You can feel the sense of despair most Americans now feel after his seizing of power. He is a nightmare.

    April 5, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. Kellster


    By "aimed at us" I am referring to the missile.

    After all, they want us out of the picture. And, unfortunately, they're not the only ones.

    We have become, in their eyes, haughty, arrogant & obnoxious. One nation goes against us, the rest will follow.

    At the same time, they don't see how much the USA has done for all of them.

    April 5, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. lulumckee

    Yes, thank god Hillary is there to help. 🙂


    April 5, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. bud in NC

    Look the North Koreans just shot a pop gun. ONE missile. It takes YEARS of testing to develop a nuclear weapon and a reliable missile to deliver it thousands of miles. If they even had one weapon, would they be foolish enough to do it and have the USA completely destroy their country. The US has enough nukes and missiles to destroy the entire world 1000 times over.The N Koreans are just doing a publicity stunt and a lot of uninformed people are panicking.

    A former Missile Engineer.

    April 5, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  22. Dave NYC

    It shows true leadership to give Hillary Clinton such a significant role in the Administration. I love seeing them traveling together. It makes me feel so proud of our democracy.

    April 5, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  23. Lgevirtz

    I hope that Obama will respond to this grave provocation with actions beyond mere words.

    April 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. alvino

    I think John King is using CNN to try our for his new program on Fox.

    April 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  25. lundooshlove

    I totally agree with barry's toker man, but prefer free Afgan Hashish for breakfast.
    Long live Obama! Obama is gonna Mount a Lama.

    April 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
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