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The U.N. Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear tests, and a 2009 resolution orders the North not to conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology.
The council condemned a failed North Korean launch in April and ordered seizure of assets of three North Korean state companies linked to financing, exporting and procuring weapons and missile technology.
White House responds
The White House says North Korea’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile is a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is calling the launch “another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior.”
In a statement released late Tuesday, Vietor says the U.S. “remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations.”
The United Nations, the U.S., South Korea and others see the launch as a cover for a test of technology for missiles that could be used to strike another nation with a nuclear warhead.
Vietor says the U.S. will work with other nations and the U.N Security Council “to pursue appropriate action” against North Korea.
Under Security Council resolutions, nations are also barred from buying or selling weapons with North Korea, a key source of revenue for its authoritarian government.
North Korea has capable short- and medium-range missiles, but long-range launches in 1998, 2006, 2009 and in April of this year ended in failure. North Korea is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen bombs, according to U.S. experts. In 2010 it revealed a uranium enrichment program that could provide a second source of material for nuclear weapons.
Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.
A February deal for the United States to provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid in exchange for a freeze in nuclear and missile activities collapsed after the North’s April launch.
North Korea said it chose a safe flight path so debris won’t endanger neighboring countries. Government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday that no debris hit Japanese territory.
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