STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there any evidence at all that North Korea is going to respond to any of this? They've been steadily adding to their nuclear program, in fits and starts at times, but basically they've been able, over the last eight years or so, to develop a nuclear capability, to develop nuclear warheads, and they seem determined to keep going on that track. RICE: Well, George, it is fits and starts. I mean, there have been steps that have occurred over the last years that have been progress. For example, they did take steps to dismantle the facility at Yongbyon, which was the principal reactor.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But then they restarted it.
RICE: No. We have seen some serious dismantlement. The problem that we face now is ensuring that there is a verifiable regime to ensure de-nuclearization. And that's where the six-party talks have now stalled.
The challenge, George, is to convey with unity, as the president said today, on behalf of the international community that we will not stand for violations of international law which this launch today represented. That there will be consequences. And that, indeed, we will pursue together with resolve the goal of achieving a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can't say yet what those consequences will be. And there is no guarantee that the U.N. today or over the course of next week is going to impose sanctions on North Korea...
RICE: George, we need to continue to work closely with our allies Japan and South Korea, with partners in the Security Council to achieve united action. And that's what we will do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What bothers the United States more, the chaos if this regime collapsed or the current regime?
RICE: Our concern is to prevent North Korea from pursuing and disseminating nuclear weapons. We view North Korea as a proliferation threat. Its actions today underscore our concern about its development of not only a nuclear weapons capability, but the capability to deliver it. That's what we're most concerned about preventing, and preventing North Korea from sharing that technology with others.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One more question on this, you talk about the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead. The Northern Command said the satellite -- no satellite was sent into orbit. But this test did seem to be more successful than the last North Korean test, the stages the rocket did get over Japan.
Are you now convinced -- is the United States now convinced that the North Koreans have a missile that could reach the United States?
RICE: I think, George, what today's experience showed is that they did not succeed according to our best assessment to putting that space launch vehicle into orbit. That, therefore, was something short of success for North Korea.
Our assessment is that their pursuit of a missile capability is of grave concern and that their aim is to achieve the capability to deliver a weapon as potentially as -- to North America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do they have it yet?
RICE: I think we have to look at exactly what transpired today and make a new assessment of the consequences.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are also, as you know, two U.S. journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who have been in North Korean custody for more than two weeks. They were arrested for illegally entering, the North Koreans say, their territory. And they're facing the potential of a trial that could land them 10 years of hard labor.