President Obama called North Korea’s latest nuclear test a “grave threat” to regional security and international stability and again vowed to take “additional significant steps,” including sanctions, against the rogue state.
North Korea’s fifth test, which South Korean officials called its most powerful to date, demonstrates that the communist nation has no interest “in being a responsible member of the international community,” Obama said in a statement Friday.
The president reiterated that the U.S. “does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state.”
“Far from achieving its stated national security and economic development goals, North Korea's provocative and destabilizing actions have instead served to isolate and impoverish its people through its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities,” he said.
The latest North Korean test occurred as the president was returning from a trip to Asia that included a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He was briefed about the detonation aboard Air Force One en route to Washington, and spoke again with Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in separate calls from the presidential aircraft.
North Korea’s increasingly aggressive ballistic missile tests that preceded the nuclear test, which took place as Obama joined Asian leaders for a regional summit in Laos and after the G-20 Summit in China, had already led Obama to promise to seek more effective sanctions from the United Nations.
At the same time, he told reporters this week that he still saw “opportunities for us to dialogue with them,” and that the U.S. had no interest in an “offensive approach.”
At a news conference Thursday, Obama said that persuading Pyongyang to change its behavior has been difficult and acknowledged the shortcomings of various diplomatic approaches over the past decade. Not only has it failed to meet its international obligations, but there was no indication North Korea was inclined to do so soon, he said.
“We are going to make sure that we put our defensive measures in place so that America is protected, our allies are protected. We will continue to put some of the toughest pressure that North Korea has ever been under as a consequence of this behavior,” he said. “Can I guarantee that it works? No. But it is the best options that we have available to us right now.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement that the latest nuclear test was the latest example of the Obama administration’s “failed policy of strategic patience.”
“The North Korean regime is a thuggish criminal syndicate that brutally represses the North Korean people. Instead of more vague pronouncements about a world without nuclear weapons, we must ensure that there are consequences for North Korea’s actions,” he said.
For more White House coverage, follow @mikememoli on Twitter.