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US Wants 'Consequences' For North Korean Rocket Launch

  • Margaret Besheer

Scientists and technicians at the General Satellite Control and Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang watch the launch of the Unha-3 rocket from a launch site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, North Korea, December 12, 2012.

Scientists and technicians at the General Satellite Control and Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang watch the launch of the Unha-3 rocket from a launch site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, North Korea, December 12, 2012.

The United States says it wants "consequences" for North Korea's rocket launch, and that it will seek international action in the coming days.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the launch, calling it a clear violation of U.N. resolutions that ban Pyongyang from carrying out missile or nuclear-related tests.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said the initial statement out of the Council was one the swiftest and strongest that the 15-member body has issued. She said the United States will be working with the international community toward an appropriate action on North Korea. She said Washington will look for a clear set of objectives that include consequences.

Rice also said Pyongyang's actions "more than call into question" North Korea's commitment to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear program.

North Korea announced Wednesday that it launched a long-range rocket, which it says put a weather satellite into orbit. North Korean state media called the launch a "groundbreaking" mission that met the "last instructions" of Pyongyang's late leader, Kim Jong Il.

"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12. The satellite entered its present orbit," the state media said.

Rice said that no matter how the North Koreans choose to describe the launch it violates two Council resolutions and shows that the country ``is determined to pursue its ballistic missile program without regard for its international obligations.''

She spoke to reporters after the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on the launch.

A successful rocket launch by the communist country would represent a major step forward in its quest to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad said Wednesday North Korea has "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit." Other analysts made the same assessment.

The timing of the launch surprised many observers and Western diplomats, given that reports Tuesday suggested North Korea was disassembling the rocket because of technical difficulties.

David Fouse, an analyst with the Hawaii-based Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies, tells VOA the notoriously reclusive leadership in Pyongyang may have intentionally misled the international community.

"I'm not sure whether there was an intelligence failure or if the North Koreans were just kind of playing games with the international community. They might have wanted to catch people off-guard and I think they did surprise a lot of people with the timing of this launch," Fouse said.

North Korea said Monday a "technical deficiency in the first stage control engine module of the rocket" could delay the launch by a week.

In April, North Korea's three-stage, liquid-fueled Unha-3 rocket exploded just minutes after liftoff. Previous attempts to fire long-range rockets in 2006 and 2009 also ended in failure, even though North Korean officials insisted that they succeeded.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the failed April launch and ordered foreign assets seized from several North Korean companies linked to financing and procuring weapons and missile technology.

Weeks after that launch, the United States responded by canceling a deal that would have provided the impoverished North with 240,000 metric tons of food.

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