"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."
North Korea's state media claimed the missile put a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. Northern Command says the satellite dropped into the Pacific. U.S. officials believe the missile was really being tested to see if it could carry a nuclear warhead over Japan potentially as far as Alaska.
Asked by Stephanopoulos if the U.S. is now convinced that the North Koreans now have a missile that could reach the U.S., Rice explained "what today's experience showed is that they did not succeed, according to our best assessments, in 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 far potentially as to North America. I think we need to look at what transpired today and make a new assessment as a consequence," she said.
On the international response, Rice, who will represent the United States at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council this afternoon, explained that "we have been in close consultation with our allies in Asia, in particular, Japan and South Korea about the appropriate response."
Japan has called for sanctions against North Korea. Asked if the U.S. is willing to co-sponsor a sanctions resolution, Rice said "the U.S. is working very closely with Japan and we will be in consultation with our partners inside the council, trying to get the most appropriate and strong response we can possibly get."
China, however, has opposed sanctions in the past. Asked if the U.S. is prepared to pressure China, Rice said "we're working very closely with China"
"China shares the same goal that we do, which is a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula. China also is very proximate, on the border with North Korea, and shares our desire not to see this situation escalate, and to ensure that we can achieve... the long-term goal, which is de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talk process."
But will North Korea respond to any international pressures? "There have been steps that have occurred over the last years that have been progress," said Rice. "For example, they did take steps to dismantle the facility at Yongbyon, which was the principal reactor....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 Rice said "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."
Rice also commented on the two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who face a trial and potentially ten years of hard labor after being arrested two weeks ago for allegedly entering North Korean territory illegally.
"We're very concerned about the circumstances of these two journalists," Rice said. "We are communicating directly through a third country that represents our interests in North Korea. Our concern for these Americans in taking every possible action that we can to ensure their safe and swift release."
While Rice explained that "of course we have no guarantees," she said "we don't have any reason to be certain that they'll put on trial. We remain hopeful that their release may be possible swiftly and safely."