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. The Broker.

    It was bound to happen. You can't spank his bottom, Mr Obama.
    You have no authority. Give one of you Big-Speeches.
    You who! Bends, in a Breeze. – Boo!

    April 5, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. j'aime

    don't take people like "barry's toker man" seriously. Notice on CNN polls that disapproval of Obama's individual policies never drops below 30%. That's because 30% if people are childish and still live by reverse-psychology. It doesn't matter what Obama does, 30% of people, just like "barry's toker man" will complain and cry because they're sore losers. Their party lost the white house, the senate, and congress in a very short time frame because nobody cares what they think. "barry's toker man", your opinion is irrelevant. Nobody with intelligence cares what you think.

    April 5, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  3. Nisey01

    I understand the security issue, but what about the surrounding circumstances that cause such a project to initiate. The political side of this all is far beyond what we know, so we have to be patient and have faith that our President Obama will do what’s in the best interest of the people to resolve this concern for the best. I am not surprised as to any occurrence in this day and time from any participate because politics holds interests that will effect all of us in some shape, form, or fashion. Yet, I am mindful that a unified and on one accord protocol will be a more solidified ground to stand on in the midst of any controversial or no controversial manifestation.

    April 5, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Monkey boy

    This guy is still in office? He won't last.

    April 5, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Paul

    Remember when Bush got the 9/11 call? He waited 7 minutes before someone told him he had to get off his butt and do something... at that point, he hid like a coward and didn't make a speech until late that afternoon.

    April 5, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. NOVA

    Very interesting article here. Are we surprised that the POTUS and Secretary of State would be awoken to news of a missile launch from a potential hostile nation? I am glad to hear that they debated for some time about what to do about it since it would have taken only 30 min to reach US territory. Since they have known about this "test" for weeks, did they have a plan in place for the launch (i.e. shoot down, let it go, shoot down over Guam, HI, or Japan)? Glad to see all the tough talk by the US and Japan on this was just tough talk. Way to drawn a line in the sand and let a crazy pint sized dictator walk right past that line. The US needs to figure out its foreign policy ASAP. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Right now we are doing none of those right.

    April 5, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. B-rad

    How long are you going to use Bush as your crutch? I am sure he will make a speech and glorify how well he is doing and that he is trying to clean up the previous president's mess. I cannot hear what he is saying, his actions speak louder than words.

    April 5, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. MTM

    I wish Obama the best because I am an American but I am truly tired of the blind kool aid drinking Obamamites who can see no wrong in the man or his policies. What happened to the concept of critical thinking?

    April 5, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. The Broker.

    The whole World knows, you elected a jerk. Bin Nowhere! Done Nothin. No Sense! No Experience. Now they (the world) is showing you. Great America. Super Power. Who just elected a Super-Jerk.

    April 5, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Dan

    We have shown the world that we are a nation of peace by just sanctioning them. I am sure that if it were a threat to the American people that Obama would have sent a stronger message to the North Koreans then what he had done this morning.

    They know where we stand and they know what we are capable of. The UN will be a step towards getting the North Koreans to realize that we are a peaceful nation and that they are making a grave mistake if they wake up the sleeping giant again!

    April 5, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. frank tx

    i say ignore it.

    April 5, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. Barbara Ca

    Thank you Mr President, you are on the right track and you are taking America in the right direction for the future. Keep going!

    April 5, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. NewDay

    You repubs are the most disingenuous group I have ever seen. The 8 years (seemed like forever) bush was in office you always said respect the office of the president. Now you trash it. You always said, deficits are not a problem and in fact, you repubs didn't even care the Iraq war was paid for off the books. Now that bush has driven the economy into a ditch, Obama mans up to fix bush's economic mess and to pay for the wars on the books, you repubs go nuts.

    Either you repubs are duplicitous, are not very bright. Pick one.

    April 5, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. Grumpy

    Bet he rolled over and said "so what ,on with the road circus " !

    April 5, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. jeff

    In case everyone forgot, we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship or kingdom. Democrats can blame Bush all they want but it also took congress, a Democratic Congress I might add, to go along and help Bush put us where we are today. Wake up and take responsibility for it. Problem with America is we have become a nation of winers and victims.
    Bush happened to have the top job but the other branches of government are just as much to blame for where we are. It's just easier to throw Bush under the bus.

    April 5, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Tamal10

    I wonder how many missiles the US has in the close vicinity of North Korea, either in S. Korea, Japan or on ships around the peninsula. This is hubris on the part of the US to tell others that they cannot do, when the US is doing it a thousand times over.

    April 5, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. Big John

    It's refreshing to have a president who speaks intelligently and in full sentences. Thank you America for President Obama. We're on the correct path to regaining our respect from the rest of the world.

    April 5, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  18. Tamal10

    Maybe Mr. Obama should follow the example of his predecesor and bomb Venezuela or for the outrageous behavior of N. Korea.

    April 5, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Slider

    "Hello, Obama, it's me, George W.

    It is now shown that an Iranian contingent was at the launch site and were monitoring the results.

    I have three words for you and your party: Axis of Evil.

    I hope that you can do what we tried to do.

    Don't blow it."


    April 5, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. BusyMom

    I am SO glad we have President Obama in charge. Finally, a thoughtful and intelligent leader! North Korea has done this before and Bush pretty much ignored it because he was too caught up in his other wars to do anything about it.

    April 5, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. JSL

    I can't believe they woke him up for that...ridiculous.

    April 5, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Jane

    What did he do,go back to sleep – or get on the television and blame Bush. Either way he will make it Bush's fault. He can't think for himself. He doesn't even know who he is.

    April 5, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. Sue, Vienna, VA

    I totally agree with Carol (and many others that commented on John King's "republicanism"). While I used to enjoy listening to John King, I now find him to be totally self-indulgent with the many republicans he has been interviewing. While I'm sure, as a journalist, it is difficult to hide one's bias, but if you insist on doing so, admit it and go to Fox or MSNBC!

    April 5, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. ANGELA

    OMG, I am eternally grateful Obama is in office as this goes down. Bush was a complete moron who failed miserably with everything he touched. I would be horribly frightened if dumb and dumber were in charge (McNutt and Palin). I feel safe with our president. By the way, that Kool-Aid crap is a racist comment, so that pretty much tells me what kind of human garbage talks about our most respected and INTELLIGENT president EVER! You Repukelicans are soooo mad that you all lost, and lost horribly..GET OVER IT. The Democrats are in charge and will be for at least 8 years, maybe we can clean up the giant mess Bushie gave us.

    April 5, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. JET

    How can anyone suggest north korea abolish it's nuclear weapons programs when they are running the same programs?

    It's ok for the USA but not north korea?

    April 5, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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