The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the North Korean rocket launch, calling it a “clear violation” of UN prohibitions.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the 15-member Council -- which has the power to authorize sanctions -- will discuss a set of measures to punish North Korea for violating Council resolutions barring it from pursuing nuclear and ballistic-missile testing.
North Korea fired a rocket that placed a satellite into orbit, defying existing international sanctions and showcasing the progress of the nuclear-armed totalitarian regime in ballistic-missile technology.
The U.S., Japan, South Korea and China criticized the North Korean action, while the Pyongyang government asserted what it said in a statement was a “legitimate” right to launch satellites. China has veto power and may oppose further steps in the Security Council.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement that it detected the launch at 9:49 a.m. Korea time, after which the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea and the second dropped into the Philippine Sea. The U.S. agency said the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit, after North Korea’s official news agency said the Unha-3 rocket had successfully sent a satellite into space.
Even China, North Korea’s biggest ally, said it regrets the launch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing that China wanted the UN Security Council to react prudently and avoid escalating the situation.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration denounced the rocket test, with National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor calling it “a highly provocative act” that jeopardizes regional security.
Kim, who succeeded his father Kim Jong Il a year ago, oversees a military-first state with 1.7 million of his 24 million people in the armed services. North Korea has twice detonated an atomic bomb, and the new leader has shown no readiness to respond to calls from the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to return to six-party talks aimed at getting the regime to abandon its nuclear program.