American officials condemned the North Korean launch of a long-range rocket Sunday, with President Obama calling it a "provocative act."
The rocket, a Taepodong 2, was launched at around 11:30 a.m. local time Sunday (2:30 a.m. GMT) at a base in the northeastern part of the country. Officials in Washington, D.C., confirmed early Sunday that the rocket cleared Japan. Preliminary data show that two objects, likely boosters from the rocket, apparently fell around Japan — one in the Sea of Japan and one in the Pacific Ocean. In a statement, Obama said the launch was “a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind.” “With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations,” Obama said. “We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and (South Korea), and members of the U.N. Security Council to bring this matter before the Council,” Obama added. “I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions.” While the United States and South Korea confirmed the rocket launch, the payload of the rocket remained unclear. North Korea has said the rocket was to carry a satellite into space, but the United States, South Korea and other nations fear it could be a missile with a warhead attached. Watch what rocket launch would mean for world » Bruce W. Bennett, a research leader at the California-based think tank RAND Corp., said the launch was an attempt by the North Korean leader to appear in charge.
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“Kim Jong-il has been in big trouble internally. He’s appeared weak. This is a big success for him. He needs some way to demonstrate to the elites that he’s in charge and still a powerful and capable leader,” Bennett said. Watch more about Kim Jong-il’s life » Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, a retired Pentagon official who was the director of the U.S. missile defense agency, said the launch exposes a flaw in diplomacy efforts. “This shows the folly of using just diplomacy and sanctions,” Obering said. “In the interest of our self protection and our allies, I think we need to be prepared when those sanctions don’t work.” U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement late Saturday.
“It is alarming that North Korea carried out this missile launch in direct defiance of the international community,” Berman said. “The test is an unnecessary provocation that raises tensions in the region, and I urge the North Koreans to stop using their missile and WMD programs to threaten their neighbors and the rest of the world.” An October 2006 United Nations resolution condemned North Korea for missile launches in the summer and a nuclear test that same month.