Although it backed off its demand for an immediate sanctions vote amid a rush of diplomacy aimed at uniting the fractured Council behind a resolution, Japan made clear it would not give up on the U.S.-backed measure.
While Japan talked of strikes and sanctions, China, North Korea's top ally and benefactor, accelerated diplomatic efforts to draw North Korea back to stalled six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program, dispatching a high-profile delegation to Pyongyang.
The contrasting responses highlight a rift in Asia over the response to Pyongyang's missile tests last week, which apparently included a long-range Taepodong-2, potentially capable of hitting as far as the western United States.
South Korea has accused Tokyo of overreacting to the missile tests, which caused no injuries or damage. Seoul renewed its criticism Monday, saying Japan should not unilaterally pursue a resolution that could further antagonize Pyongyang and create divisions within the U.N.
But officials in Japan have said negotiations may not be enough, mulling tough action almost unheard of since adopting a pacifist constitution after its World War II defeat.
"If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack ... there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion," chief Cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe said Monday.
"It's irresponsible to do nothing when we know North Korea could riddle us with missiles," echoed Tsutomu Takebe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. "We should consider measures, including legal changes" required for such an attack, he said.
The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Japan agreed to postpone a vote on a resolution that would bar nations from trading in missile-related items and technology with Pyongyang, a news report said Monday.
The council is set to continue negotiations on the resolution "for a while," Kyodo News agency cited China's ambassador to the U.N., Wang Guangya, as telling reporters in New York.
Wang was also quoted as saying Japan's U.S.-backed resolution would have to be altered for the council to approve it.
"We've got to make it very clear to the Chinese that this is a defining issue in our relations. It's not in China's interests to see a destabilized Far East," Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., told CBS News' The Early Show. "So we're not asking for an act of charity from China. We are acting for them to be a mature player on the world stage..."
China had asked Japan to postpone the vote for several days, a request Japan said it was prepared to accept, Kyodo reported earlier.
"The threats from North Korea are ones that the world powers must take seriously, but are designed to prevent action to sanction Pyongyang at the U.N. Security Council," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk. "And without a clear reading on whether China would abstain or veto, the sponsors of the Resolution will have to make tough decisions before bringing it to a vote early this week."
"China has not vetoed a resolution in the past six years and that is what the Administration is banking on when it says it has the votes," added Falk.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters, "I don't think we have to push too much for a vote" immediately, but said Tokyo still wants the council to vote on the measure "as soon as possible."
"I think we must send a message that's as clear as possible" to North Korea, he added.