Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta today joined the chorus of U.S. administration officials condemning the North Korean nuclear test.
Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service reports:
North Korea is a threat to U.S. interests in Northeast Asia, U.S. allies in the region and to the American homeland, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.
Panetta condemned the “apparent” nuke test the North Koreans conducted Feb. 11 U.S. time. American experts still are collecting data to determine whether it was a nuclear test or not, he said.
“This highly provocative act was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and North Korea’s own commitments under the Six-party Talks,” Panetta said. “The regime’s actions are increasing the risks of proliferation and further isolating North Korea from the international community.”
As part of the Six-party Talks — which include North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States – the regime agreed to curtail its nuclear program. Instead, North Korea has plowed ahead with developing nuclear weapons and building the missile technology to launch them.
“There is no question that North Korea constitutes a threat to the United States, to regional stability, and to global security,” Panetta said. “A combination of a recent missile test, combined with what apparently was this nuclear test, we believe represents a real threat to the United States of America.”
North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapon in 2006 and a second in 2009. In December, it launched a satellite into orbit, meaning it can now reach North America with an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Make no mistake: The U.S. military will take all necessary steps to meet our security commitments to the Republic of Korea and to our regional allies,” Panetta said.
The secretary said he was pleased with the action of the U.N. Security Council that condemned North Korea’s actions. “This is a strong first step as we work to increase the pressure on the regime with new sanctions and new steps that we hope to take with regards to our presence in that area,” the secretary said.
As reported here, North Korea has conducted an underground nuclear test — its most powerful nuclear test to-date.
The American Forces Press Service (AFPS) reports:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement shortly after midnight EST announcing that a “seismic event” had taken place, and later issued a second statement saying North Korea probably conducted an underground nuclear test near Punggye. The explosion yield was approximately several kilotons and the analysis of the event continues, the second statement said.
Also, according to the AFPS, “President Barack Obama today strongly condemned this latest North Korean nuclear test, saying it undermines regional stability in an important part of the world.”
The American Forces Press Service reports the President’s and others’ reactions as follows:
“This is a highly provocative act that, following its Dec. 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability, violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the Sept. 19, 2005, Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and increases the risk of proliferation,” Obama said in a written statement. The Six-Party Talks include North Korea, South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security, Obama said.
“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region,” he added.
North Korean exploded its first nuclear device in October 2006, and conducted its second test in 2009.
“These provocations do not make North Korea more secure,” Obama said in his statement. “Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”
The U.N. Security Council is conducting an emergency session in New York to consider responses. “We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other U.N. member states to pursue firm action,” Obama said.
On Capitol Hill today, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter expressed the hope that China would join in condemning the test.
“There’s nothing more provocative than what the North Koreans did,” Carter said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, where he’s testifying on the effects of looming defense spending cuts.
“It is very dangerous,” he added. “We will take action to condemn and get the rest of the international community to condemn, particularly looking to China to join in that condemnation. They have a pivotal role in influencing the future here. That is an extremely dangerous situation.”
Read the full press release here.