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Kerry, Rice Denounce 'Flagrant Violation' After N. Korea Missile Launch

A South Korean man watches a TV news program with a file footage about North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station on Feb. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch, on the heels of a Jan. 6 nuclear test, “represents yet another destabilizing and provocative action” and a “flagrant violation” of UN Security Council resolutions.

“North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs represent serious threats to our interests — including the security of some of our closest allies — and undermine peace and security in the broader region,” Rice said after U.S. Strategic Command confirmed it detected and tracked “what we assess was a North Korean missile launch into space” at 6:29 p.m. CST.

STRATCOM said the missile “was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea” and NORAD “determined that at no time was the missile a threat to North America.”

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported before the launch that a viewing booth for Kim Jong-un appeared to have been built at the Dongchang-ri missile launch site near North Korea’s northwestern border with China.

The Korea Times reported today that while some officials deemed the launch successful — the North claims the rocket was intended to put a satellite into orbit — others branded the launch a failure as “the first stage of the multi-stage rocket exploded into some 270 pieces over waters off northwest of Jeju Island.”

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a military official as saying “it’s presumed that the projectile has entered into orbit.”

Referring to what they named the satellite, North Korea said in a statement that “complete success made in the Kwangmyongsong-4 lift-off is the proud fruition of the great Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy on attaching importance to science and technology and an epochal event in developing the country’s science, technology, economy and defense capability by legitimately exercising the right to use space for independent and peaceful purposes.”

“The fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star, the greatest national holiday of Kim Il Sung’s Korea, is a gift of most intense loyalty presented by our space scientists and technicians to the great Comrade Kim Jong Un, our dignified party, state and people,” Pyongyang’s statement continued.

Rice said the administration condemns today’s launch and Pyongyang’s “determination to prioritize its missile and nuclear weapons programs over the well-being of its people, whose struggles only intensify with North Korea’s diversion of scarce resources to such destabilizing activities.”

“The United States is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region, and we will take all necessary steps to defend ourselves and our allies and respond to North Korean provocations,” she continued. “We call upon the international community to stand together and demonstrate to North Korea that its reckless actions must have serious consequences.”

The UN Security Council is supposed to receive a briefing on the launch 11 a.m. Sunday.

Secretary of State John Kerry also called the launch a “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions.

“This is the second time in just over a month that the D.P.R.K. has chosen to conduct a major provocation, threatening not only the security of the Korean peninsula, but that of the region and the United States as well,” Kerry said in a statement. “We reaffirm our ironclad commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan. We will continue to work with our partners and members of the UN Security Council on significant measures to hold the D.P.R.K. to account.”

“Now is the time to do so in a firm and united way, with measures that make clear the determination of the international community to ‎address the pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities by the D.P.R.K. and this most recent destabilizing and unacceptable challenge to our common peace and security.”

But House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the launch is yet another “belligerent step” in the face of failing administration policy.

“As North Korea works to build a nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the United States it is clear the Obama administration’s policy of ‘strategic patience’ has failed,” Royce said.

Royce’s North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act passed the House last month. Legislation is being shepherded through the upper chamber by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.); it has passed the Foreign Relations Committee and is scheduled to come to the floor for a vote next week.

“North Korea’s latest act of belligerence is further evidence that we must act to counter the Forgotten Maniac,” Gardner said in a statement. “Today’s reported missile launch comes at the heels of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and third nuclear test during the Obama Administration.”

“We must act swiftly to reverse the president’s policy of ‘strategic patience,’ and pursue mandatory sanctions aimed at changing North Korea’s pattern of illicit behavior and peacefully disarming the regime.”