The White House late Thursday denounced North Korea's failed effort to launch a rocket, condemning the attempt as a severe breach of its international obligations and warned that the secretive regime's "pattern of aggressive behavior" had only succeeded in further isolating itself from the international community.
"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," spokesman Jay Carney said in a written statement.
Carney's statement did not spell out clear next steps, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned earlier that Washington would seek further UN Security Council sanctions, and the White House itself had said that it would halt planned shipments of food aid in response to any such launch.
Carney also cast doubt on the future of Obama's efforts to reach out to the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang, saying: "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."
An Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the launch as "in part a propaganda effort" and predicted it "will have ramifications internally." The official also called the launch "a chance for North Korea to showcase its military wares to prospective customers."
"The failure will make those customers think twice before buying anything," said the official, who suggested that tough sanctions backed by President Barack Obama had starved the regime of key components necessary for a successful launch.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command said that the United States had "detected and tracked a launch of the North Korean Taepo Dong-2 missile at 6:39 p.m.EDT. The missile was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea. Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 km west of Seoul, South Korea. The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat."
Still, "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," 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. North Korea's long-standing development of missiles and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not brought it security — and never will. North Korea will only show strength and find security by abiding by international law, living up to its obligations, and by working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors," the spokesman said.