The White House on Wednesday condemned North Korea's successful launch of a long-range rocket, deeming it a "highly provocative act" that threatens security in Asia and directly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The Tuesday launch, which came as a surprise to most of the international community after Pyongyang's failed attempt nearly eight months ago, placed a satellite in the Earth's orbit but did not appear to pose any type of threat to other nations.
Instead, the long-range rocket launch was a way for North Korea to demonstrate its technological strength, as well as its willingness to flout international obligations. Neighboring countries accused Pyongyang of conducting a disguised missile test, and the U.S. labeled the launch "irresponsible."
A U.N. resolution bars North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests.
"This action is yet another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behavior," U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Tuesday. "The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and fully committed to the security of our allies in the region."
President Obama spent four days on a post-election swing through Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, where he attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and pledged to strengthen ties to the region.
Japan immediately called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Even China, North Korea's closest ally, expressed regret that Pyongyang had gone ahead with the satellite's launch "in spite of the extensive concerns of the international community."
The United States, Japan and South Korea last week warned North Korea that they would seek additional U.N. sanctions if the North went ahead with the launch. Russia and China have not said whether they would agree to further sanctions.
The timing of the launch carries several political implications, coming a week before the South Korean presidential elections and nearly a year after the death of Kim Jong-il, the father of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, but U.S. analysts do not believe it has the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
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