The United States has joined other governments in condemning North Korea's apparently successful long-range rocket launch, calling it a "highly provocative act" that threatens regional security.
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National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor said Wednesday's launch is in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions barring Pyongyang from using ballistic missile technology.
He vowed the U.S. will remain "vigilant in the face of North Korean provocation and fully committed to the security of our allies in the region," saying Washington will work with the U.N. to pursue "appropriate action."
Washington's two main Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, also demanded further U.N. sanctions on the North. In Seoul, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan pledged North Korea would be “sternly held responsible” for violating United Nations resolutions that ban the country from launching such rockets.
Japan immediately convened an emergency session of its security council to analyze the situation. Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tokyo "cannot tolerate" the launch and has lodged a strong protest against North Korea.
Tokyo requested that the United Nations convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss new penalties.
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China, North Korea's main ally and biggest trading partner, expressed "regret" at the launch. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Pyongyang should observe "relevant" U.N. resolutions, but said any Security Council resolution should be "prudent and moderate."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the North for defying "unified and strong" calls from the international community. Ban said he is concerned about the negative consequences the launch will have on peace and stability in the region.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the move risks "further destabilizing the Korean peninsula," and called on North Korea to "fulfill their obligations under international law."
The European Union, meanwhile, threatened fresh sanctions against Pyongyang. Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the EU is considering an "appropriate response," including possible "additional restrictive measures."
Russia's foreign ministry expressed "deep regret" over the move, saying it "flaunts the opinion of the international community."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague released a statement sharply criticizing the impoverished communist country for choosing to "prioritize this launch over improving the livelihood of its people."
Watch related video of North Korea's rocket launch