By Steve Gutterman
April 13 (Reuters) - Russia criticised North Korea for its rocket launch on Friday, saying that Pyongyang had defied the U.N. Security Council and that neighbouring powers all opposed it.
Russia had urged Pyongyang not to conduct the launch, warning it would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution regardless of its purpose and complicate efforts to revive six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear programme.
“U.N. resolutions contain concrete calls not to conduct such launches, and this is the shared approach of ... Russia, China, the United States, South Korea and Japan,” the Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.
“These five (nations) are united in their position,” said Lavrov, who was meeting the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers in Moscow on Friday.
Lavrov, whose country is a Group of Eight member along with six Western states and Japan, joined G8 foreign ministers in a statement condemning the launch and saying they were ready to consider measures in response.
China’s initial reaction sounded less critical, calling for calm and restraint from all sides.
North Korea admitted its much hyped long-range rocket failed to deliver a satellite into orbit on Friday while U.S. and South Korean officials said it crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch.
Regional powers have said that what North Korea has described as the launch of a weather satellite, months after Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as the leader of the reclusive state, is a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile.
“U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1874 demands that the DPRK (North Korea) refrain from any launches using ballistic rockets. This applies to both military and civilian launches,” Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian diplomat as saying.
Russia, which shares a short border with North Korea - Moscow’s client in the Soviet era - called on Pyongyang last month to refrain from the launch, expressing serious concern and calling for restraint from all sides.
Russia has often balanced criticism of North Korea’s nuclear activities and its missile launches with calls on other major powers to refrain from belligerent actions against Pyongyang, which it says can be counterproductive.
A permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia is displeased when nations defy council resolutions, and North Korean missile tests have sparked concern among Russians living on the country’s Pacific coast in the past.
The U.N. Security Council was to meet on Friday to discuss a possible condemnation of the launch, but Western diplomats said China was not expected to support new sanctions.
Russia has been a participant in six-party talks with Pyongyang last held three years ago and hosted the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last August in Siberia, but has less influence on Pyongyang than China.