Russia claims N. Korean missile wasn’t ICBM, objects to condemnation statement

UNITED NATIONS — Despite several rounds of U.N. sanctions on North Korea agreed to by the Security Council, tensions between the U.S. and Russia have hit such a fevered pitch that a statement circulated by the U.S. to condemn the  launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile is now “dead,” a U.N. Security Council diplomat told CBS News.

At the heart of the dispute is a more important difference: Russia says that the missile North Korea launched on the Fourth of July was not an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Late Thursday, the Russian Mission sent the following statement to CBS News: “According to the Statement of the Russian Defense Ministry, the launch of the ballistic missile on July 4 from the North Korean test site was recorded and monitored by the Russian Missile Attack Warning System. The parametric flight data of the ballistic target corresponds to the tactical and technical parameters of a medium-range ballistic missile.”

As a result of their determination, Russia did not want a reference to an ICBM in a non-binding press statement that would be issued by the Council. A U.N. Security Council diplomat said that Russia “wanted the ICBM reference out; we won’t be continuing the negotiation on the statement.”

The statement was never issued.

The U.N. Security Council met on Wednesday to debate the high-stakes crisis with North Korea, after the United States, South Korea and Japan called an urgent meeting to consider next steps following North Korea’s ICBM launch. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley requested that the meeting be open.

“The United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies,” Haley said. “One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.”

At the end of the meeting, Haley and the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation Vladimir Safronkov had a back and forth heated exchange about exactly what type of missile North Korea launched.

Russia also complained that news reports leaked negotiations about the Council’s response, saying: “Unfortunately, once again we witness the unscrupulous steps of some Members of the Security Council, which commit deliberate leaks.”

Haley told the Council — and the Russian ambassador in particular — that the U.S., the United Nations and North Korea determined that the launch was an ICBM. “So, if you need any sort of intelligence to let you know that the rest of the world sees this is an ICBM, I’m happy to provide it,” she said.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, had kept his country’s ICBM hidden from spy satellites until just before it was rolled into launch position and aimed into space. It flew for 37 minutes on Tuesday, CBS News’ David Martin reported from the Pentagon. The missile could have reached Alaska, had it been aimed in that direction, Martin reported.

“There’s no question we’ve crossed a threshold here in the North Koreans’ ability to develop an ICBM,” Leon Panetta, former CIA director and defense secretary during the Obama administration, told CBS News. “It represents a very serious national security threat to the United States.”

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