United States Condemns North Korea's Missile Launches

By Susan Krause
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The United States strongly condemns North Korea's decision to defy international calls for restraint and proceed with the test launch of a series of ballistic missiles, the White House said in a July 4 statement.

"This provocative act violates a standing moratorium on missile tests to which the North had previously committed," the statement said.  "Regardless of whether the series of launches occurred as North Korea planned, they nevertheless demonstrate North Korea's intent to intimidate other states by developing missiles of increasingly longer ranges."

Speaking to reporters the evening of July 4, White House press secretary Tony Snow and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said North Korea had fired six missiles, including Scud-type and Nodong short- to medium-range missiles capable of reaching Japan and a Taepodong-2 long-range missile capable of reaching the United States.  The launches took place between about 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. EDT time (1830 and 2230 GMT) on July 4. 

A seventh midrange missile was fired 12 hours later, according to press reports. 

The Taepodong long-range missile failed less than a minute after launch, Snow said.  All of the missiles landed in the sea between Korea and Japan. 

"In doing this, the North Koreans have once again isolated themselves," the press secretary said.  "They have defied their neighbors who urged them not to have a launch."

The launches did not come as a surprise, although their purpose remains unclear, Hadley said. 

He stressed that the missile launches were not a bilateral issue between the United States and North Korea.   "[T]hey were receiving messages from the entire international community on this subject and chose to ignore them," he said.  "I think it underscores the importance for the international community to stay together, send a common message and decide where we go next." 

A top priority for the United States, Hadley said, is to revive the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear programs and implement the joint statement of principles that was negotiated through those talks in September 2005.  Those talks involve North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. (See related article.)


In a July 5 update, Snow said President Bush has not yet called any heads of state with regard to North Korea, but active diplomatic engagement is under way.

Snow said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken to her counterparts from the other Six-Party Talks nations and was scheduled to meet with South Korea's chief secretary for security policy, Song Min-soon, later on July 5.  The South Korean security adviser already was in Washington for consultations on the Six-Party Talks and Hadley has spoken with Song by telephone, Snow said. 

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, who has been the lead U.S. negotiator at the Six-Party Talks, will leave for the region by July 6.  Snow said Hill has been on the phone with allies in preparation for his trip. 

In addition, Snow said, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer has been in talks with Japanese officials.

"Right now, basically what we are doing is trying to figure out the proper way to move forward," Snow said. 

The press secretary said the nations involved in the Six-Party Talks have spoken with one voice.  "Rather than having the U.S. speak for all the parties, we are going to continue to have consultations with our allies," he said.  "And when we reach a joint decision, there will be again … one voice on the way forward." 

Hadley said the launch of the Taepodong-2 missile is a clear violation of North Korea's self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile launches. 

Pyongyang issued a declaration in 1999 promising that it would maintain a moratorium on testing, after neighboring countries objected to its launch of a long-range Taepodong-1 missile in 1998. The North Korean government reaffirmed its moratorium in 2004, but reversed its stand in 2005.

"We also think that the September 2005 agreement that was reached in the Six-Party Talks committed all parties to the security and enhancing the security of Northeast Asia," Hadley said.  "And, of course, we think that this kind of activity does not enhance the security of Northeast Asia and therefore is inconsistent with at least the spirit and maybe even the letter of the September 2005 agreement."


In New York, the U.N. Security Council also took up the issue, with representatives of 15 nations meeting in emergency session. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said July 5 that the discussion in the Security Council showed "how little support there is in the international community as a whole for these North Korean missile launches."

Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 5, the North Atlantic Council, the governing body of NATO, expressed "grave concern" over the missile launch, and issued a statement expressing regret and condemnation.

North Korea's ballistic missile program poses a "serious threat," the statement said, one that "will only further isolate North Korea from the international community and harm the interests of its people."  

"North Korea's missile programs and provocative actions necessitate a firm response from the international community, and we will support the international community's efforts to address this matter broadly, including at the U.N. Security Council," the statement said.  


The United States remains committed to a peaceful diplomatic solution to this issue and to implementation of the September 2005 joint statement from the Six-Party Talks, the White House statement said. 

However, the White House statement cautioned, "the North Korean regime's actions and unwillingness to return to the talks appears to indicate that the North has not yet made the strategic decision to give up their nuclear programs as pledged to the other five parties."

"Accordingly, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect ourselves and our allies."

The full text of the White House statement and a transcript of the press briefing are available on the White House Web site.

The full text of the North Atlantic Council statement can be found at the Web site of the U.S. Mission to NATO.