White House: North Korean rocket launch was provocative act

By Jeff Mason Updated at 2012-04-13 02:33:03 +0000


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Thursday North Korea's failed rocket launch was a provocative act that left the country isolated and in violation of international law.

"Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

"While this action is not surprising given North Korea's pattern of aggressive behavior, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community.

"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and is fully committed to the security (of) our allies in the region."

North Korea said it wanted to launch the rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit.

Analysts believe the launch was designed to enhance its capacity to design a ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States.

The White House alluded to North Korea's chronic food shortages but did not address whether Washington would carry through on a tentative deal to provide nutritional assistance to the country.

When North Korea's plans to launch the satellite first came to light in March, the State Department said such a step could scuttle its plans to resume food aid, but it did not rule out those plans definitively.

"The president has been clear that he is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea.

"However, he has also insisted that North Korea live up to its own commitments, adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors," Carney said.

"North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry."

Carney said earlier this week the launch would jeopardize food aid from Washington.


An administration official noted that the failed launch would have an effect on North Korea's internal politics as well as any efforts to sell its military wares.

"This launch was in part a propaganda effort. That effort clearly failed and will have ramifications internally," the official told Reuters.

"This launch was also a chance for North Korea to showcase its military wares to prospective customers. The failure will make those customers think twice before buying anything."

The ballistic missile failed after launch and fell into the sea west of South Korea, at no time posing a threat to land, the U.S. military said.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, said it tracked the Taepo Dong-2 missile after its launch at 6:39 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

The first stage fell into the sea 165 km (103 miles) west of Seoul, South Korea, and the remainder of the satellite-carrying missile was deemed to have failed. No debris fell on land and at no time was the missile or debris deemed a threat, NORAD said.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and presumptive nominee to take on Obama in the November 6 election, used the news to criticize the president, a Democrat.

"Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived," Romney said in a statement.

"At the same time, he has cut critical U.S. missile defense programs and continues to underfund them.

"This incompetence from the Obama Administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and our allies."

The Obama administration official said sanctions put in place by the president had "greatly restricted" North Korea's proliferation activities and access to materials.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Todd Eastham)