* Council to discuss possible resolution on launch
* Whether UN sanctions can be expanded depends on China
* UN chief condemns North Korea’s “provocative act”
By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday condemned North Korea’s missile launch and will continue discussions on how to respond to Pyongyang’s violations of a U.N. ban on North Korean ballistic missile development, the council president said.
“Members of the Security Council condemned this launch, which is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874,” Moroccan U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, president of the Security Council this month, told reporters.
“Members of the Security Council will continue consultations on an appropriate response,” he said after a closed-door meeting on the North Korean missile launch.
Loulichki recalled the council’s April 2012 warning to Pyongyang that the council would act in the event of any further rocket launches.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also strongly condemned the launch as a “provocative act” in breach of Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from developing ballistic-missile and nuclear technology.
Several council diplomats said they hoped the 15-nation body would consider adopting a binding resolution, possibly expanding existing U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.
The White House said North Korea would face “consequences” for its rocket launch and that the United States would work with international partners to further isolate and punish Pyongyang.
“The president is concerned about North Korea’s behavior,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “It has chosen not to (abide by its international obligations) and therefore there will be consequences for that.”
Carney stopped short of specifying what actions Washington might be considering against North Korea, saying U.S. officials first wanted to see what decisions were made by the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice declined to comment on what the United States would like from the council but said Washington wanted a “clear and meaningful response.”
“Members of the council must now work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions have consequences,” Rice told reporters. “In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners ... to pursue appropriate action.”
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters before the council meeting that Paris would “consider it logical to sooner or later have a resolution.”
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant echoed that sentiment, saying the council “should react strongly to this provocation.”
A senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea were among those who would like to see U.N. sanctions expanded.
That could include adding more entities to the U.N. blacklist, banning travel and freezing assets of individual North Korean officials and tightening the cargo-inspection regime.
Whether or not the council can agree a resolution - with or without expanding the sanctions - will depend largely on China and its diplomatic ally on the Security Council, Russia. Both nations have veto powers and tend to support each other and vote the same way on issues important to either of them.
China’s traditionally acts as the protector of neighboring North Korea on the Security Council.
“Exactly what the Chinese will be prepared to accept in form and substance is not yet clear,” the senior envoy said. He hoped they could have a resolution agreed by the end of next week.
North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its youthful new leader, Kim Jong-un, who took power a year ago, and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.
The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.
It was Japan that first appealed to the Security Council to take up the issue of North Korea’s missile launch.
Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, expressed concern that the launch could negatively impact prospects for peace and security in the region.
A statement issued by his office said the launch was “a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874, in which the Council demanded that the DPRK not conduct any launch using ballistic-missile technology.”
The statement said Ban had urged North Korea’s leaders not to launch a missile but “instead to build confidence with its neighbors while taking steps to improve the lives of its people.”
“The Secretary-General is concerned about the negative consequences that this provocative act may have on peace and stability in the region,” the statement said, adding that Ban was in touch with “concerned” governments.
North Korea followed what it said was a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the U.N. Security Council to stiffen sanctions that it originally imposed in 2006 after Pyongyang’s first nuclear test.