WASHINGTON – The United States slammed North Korea’s rocket launch Wednesday as “a highly provocative act” and indicated it would seek tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, saying it will work with U.N. Security Council members to pursue “appropriate action.”
“North Korea’s launch today — using ballistic missile technology despite express prohibitions by U.N. Security Council resolutions — is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman of the National Security Council, said in a statement Tuesday Washington time.
Vietor said the United States will “work with its six-party partners, the U.N. Security Council and other U.N. member states to pursue appropriate action” against North Korea.
A presidential statement of the U.N. Security Council, issued April 16 after a previous launch attempt by North Korea, expressed determination to take action in the event of another launch.
Wednesday’s launch directly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and contravenes Pyongyang’s international obligations, while undermining the global nonproliferation regime, Vietor said.
“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in such provocative acts,” the White House official said, adding the international community “must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions have consequences.”
The statement was released less than four hours after the launch. In sharp contrast to Japan and South Korea, which quickly confirmed and condemned the rocket launch, the United States remained silent for more than three hours without releasing official statements.
The unusually slow U.S. response suggests Washington was surprised by the timing of the launch.
North Korea had indicated it might delay the liftoff by announcing a one-week extension of the launch window through Dec. 29.
The U.S. military said the North Korean rocket is believed to have put an object into orbit.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command issued a statement saying “initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit.”
The rocket or its debris posed no threat to North America, NORAD said.
NORAD also said its officials acknowledged that “U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile.”
The first stage of the rocket is believed to have fallen into the Yellow Sea while the second stage was “assessed to fall into the Philippines Sea,” the statement said.