World must 'stand up to' North Korea

Barack Obama leads international condemnation of nuclear test
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US President Barack Obama assailed North Korea Monday for new missile tests, saying the world must "stand up to" Pyongyang and demand that it honor a promise to abandon it nuclear ambitions.

Appearing on the White House steps, Obama said that its latest nuclear underground test and subsequent test firings of short-range ground to air missiles "pose a grave threat to the peace and security of the world and I strongly condemn their reckless action."

It was his second statement within hours on the tests, the latest in a number of nuclear actions that Obama said "endanger the people of Northeast Asia." He called it "a blatant violation of international law" and said that it contradicted North Korea's "own prior commitments." Obama had released a written statement chastising the North Koreans in the early morning hours of Monday.

In his statement before cameras and microphones arrayed in the White House Rose Garden at mid-morning, he noted that the latest tests had also been denounced by China and Russia and had drawn the scorn of many around the world. Pyongyang's actions "have flown in the face of UN resolutions" and had deepened its isolation, he said, "inviting stronger international pressure."

"North Korea will not find security and respect through threats and illegal weapons," the president said. "We will work with our friends and allies to stand up to this behavior. The United States will never waver from our determination to protect our people and the peace and security of the world."

In Pyongyang, North Korea said that it had carried out a powerful underground nuclear test - much larger than one conducted in 2006. The regime also test-fired three short-range, ground-to-air missiles later Monday from the same northeastern site where it launched a rocket last month, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed sources.

The rocket lift-off, widely believed to be a cover for a test of its long-range missile technology, drew censure from the UN Security Council, which scheduled a meeting in New York for later Monday.

Reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program has been a continuing problem for US administrations, dating to Bill Clinton's presidency in the 1990s. Former President George W Bush labeled North Korea as a country that was part of an international "axis of evil," but the United States subsequently removed Pyongyang from its list of official state sponsors of terrorism when it shut down a nuclear installation late in the Bush administration.

The question now is calculating precisely the nature of a threat and what are options are available to the Obama administration.

"We are gravely concerned by North Korea's claims. We are analyzing the data," the State Department said in a statement. "The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that a seismic event took place consistent with a test. We are consulting with our Six Party and UN Security Council partners on next steps."

The six parties that had participated in discussions after North Korea withdrew from the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 were China, the US, Japan, Russia and South Korea and North Korea itself.

North Korea abandoned the talks last month over the UN condemnation of an 5 April rocket launch. North Korea claims it launched the rocket to send a satellite into space; South Korea, Japan and other nations saw it as a way to test the technology used to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last month dismissed the earlier rocket launch as a failure - both technologically and as an effort to market its missiles to other countries.

"Would you buy from somebody that had failed three times in a row and never been successful?" he asked during a briefing at the Pentagon. Cartwright said the abortive missile launch showed that North Korea had failed to master the midair thrust shift from one rocket booster to another, an integral part of ballistic missile technology.

In his statement today, Obama noted that North Korea had "conducted a nuclear test in violation of international law."

"It appears to also have attempted a short range missile launch," the president said in his statement. "These actions, while not a surprise given its statements and actions to date, are a matter of grave concern to all nations. North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitute a threat to international peace and security."

"By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council," he said, "North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community. North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia.

"Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea's isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed the latest series of tests "just speak to the growing belligerence on the part of North Korea... the growing defiance of international law."

Mullen, appearing on CBS television, said that "all of those things point to a country I think continues to destabilize that region and in the long term, should they continue to develop a nuclear weapons program, poses a grave threat to the United States."

Mullen, making appearances on various TV morning news shows to pay tribute to troops on Monday's US holiday Memorial Day, told NBC that he was "very confident we can deal with a threat posed by North Korea."

"It's not just the US, but there are many other countries that are equally concerned," the admiral said. "This was not an unanticipated test on the part of North Korea, should we be able to confirm it.... It's a country that continues to isolate itself, and the international community must continue to bring pressure to make sure they don't achieve a nuclear weapons program that can threaten other countries and the US as well."

He did not discuss whether there were any changes in US military alert status.

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