International condemnation of North Korea’s rocket launch extended to Washington, where the Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers expressed renewed resolve to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear program and military ambitions.
In a statement, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned the long-range rocket launch and pledged the United States “will take all steps to defend ourselves and our allies and respond to North Korean provocations.”
Even before the launch, the White House was on alert.
“We have been in conversations with China about how they, in coordination with the international community, can apply more pressure to the North Koreans to get them to comply with their international obligations,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest late last month, responding to Pyongyang’s most recent nuclear test week’s earlier.
Meanwhile, passage of tougher sanctions on North Korea could be expedited this week on Capitol Hill.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, issued a statement saying the full chamber will take up a bill to “expand and tighten enforcement of sanctions for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development” that “targets a wide range of the regime’s illicit activities.”
“What you have got is the unintended consequences of doing nothing,” Corker said in an interview with VOA last week.
“They continue to do the ballistic missile testing. They continue to work on those elements that will put them in a place to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead,” the senator added. “The country that could really push back against what North Korea is doing is China. They are always focused on stability and do not want to rock the boat, but I think these sanctions may change that.”
The rocket launch quickly became a topic in America’s presidential contest.
“One of the first things we should do is expand our missile defense capacity,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz at a televised presidential debate late Saturday. “We ought to put missile defense interceptors in South Korea. South Korea wants them.”
“The next president of the United States is going to have to get the United States back in the game, and if a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it,” said another Republican presidential hopeful, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
“China says they do not have that good of control over North Korea. They have tremendous control,” asserted businessman Donald Trump at the Republican debate. “I would get on with China, let China solve that problem.”
Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton has accused Pyongyang of nuclear blackmail and bullying, saying, “We need a commander-in-chief with the experience and judgement to deal with a dangerous North Korea on day one."