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Obama pledges swift reaction

By Lou Kestem

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:11 a.m. HST, Feb 12, 2013

WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama reacted sharply to North Korea's nuclear test today, promising swift international action to bring the rogue communist regime in line. The detonation came hours before the American leader's State of the Union address, where he was expected to address U.S. denuclearization plans.

In a statement, Obama called Pyongyang's third nuclear test in seven years a "highly provocative act" that threatens U.S. security and international peace. The reaction from the White House was significantly stronger than after North Korea's long-range missile test in December, when the administration only promised "appropriate action" alongside America's allies.

"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community," Obama said in a statement early today. "The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."

North Korea said it successfully detonated a miniaturized nuclear device at a northeastern test site Tuesday (Monday in Hawaii). South Korean, U.S. and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies said they detected an earthquake in North Korea with a magnitude between 4.9 and 5.2.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was conducted safely but with "great explosive power." The test counters the "ferocious" U.S. hostility that undermines the North's peaceful, sovereign right to launch satellites, it argued. Last month, North Korea's National Defense Commission said the United States was its prime target for a nuclear test and long-range rocket launches.

"These provocations do not make North Korea more secure," Obama said. "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 test occurred hours before Obama was to deliver his prime-time address to the nation. While the bulk of the speech will focus on the economy and job creation, the administration had sought to emphasize that it wants to work with Russia on further reducing the amount of deployable nuclear weapons each power maintains, building on the U.S.-Russian New START accord that took effect in 2011.

It's unclear how North Korea's test would affect the planning. Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said Obama would make the case this evening that the "only way North Korea will rejoin the world community is if they stop these threats and live up to their international obligations."

The Obama administration's options for a response are limited — even though it is committed to protecting America's key Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.

The U.S. already maintains severe unilateral sanctions against North Korea, and commerce between the two countries is nearly nonexistent. Tougher global sanctions are dependent on the participation of China, Pyongyang's primary trading partner, but Beijing has resisted measures that would cut off North Korea's economy completely.

At the U.N., the Security Council opened an emergency meeting today and condemned North Korea's action. But any new, binding international sanctions will now have to be worked out.

More forceful U.S. consequences, in the form of a military response, are highly unlikely even though the United States remains technically at war with the notoriously unpredictable North Koreans, whose opaque leadership has confounded successive American administrations. Only the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War keeps the U.S. and the North from hostilities, and some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea to deter potential aggression.

But with the South Korean capital of Seoul just 40 miles south of the nuclear-armed North's border and its million-man army, the risks involved in any military action are great. And just raising the rhetoric can even serve as a reward to North Korea's attention-seeking government, which starves its citizens while seeking to leverage any military advance it makes into much-needed aid.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in remarks this morning to Pentagon workers gathered in the building's courtyard, said the U.S. is going to have to continue to deal with rogue states like North Korea.

"We just saw what North Korea has done in these last few weeks, a missile test and now a nuclear test," he said. "They represent a serious threat to the United States of America, and we've got to be prepared to deal with that. "

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, California Republican Ed Royce, called for even tougher sanctions and demanded that the administration "replace its failed North Korea policy."

"Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow," Royce said.

And House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., added that the U.S. must take a new approach to dealing with North Korea. "The key to stemming North Korea's cycle of provocation is to seriously engage the Chinese in exercising leverage over their neighbor," he said.

China expressed firm opposition to the test but called for a calm response by all sides.

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Pocho wrote:
The US and other Countries that were against the N. Korea N-test ain't gonna do nothing about it. They'll just cry, complain and watnots. What's done is done. Big Deal
on February 11,2013 | 05:09PM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
North Korea is simply a puppet between two big dogs and that's just what the puppet masters want!
on February 12,2013 | 03:44AM
Pocho wrote:
N. Korea nuclear test confirmed. Now what US? more sanctions? hahahahahahaha
on February 11,2013 | 05:40PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I suppose we can thank our supremely effective State Department for the improved relations we enjoy with North Korea.
on February 11,2013 | 06:10PM
artmurch wrote:
No country, including China, is experiencing “improved relations“ with North Korea.
on February 12,2013 | 06:16AM
kahu808 wrote:
So how would YOU handle it?
on February 12,2013 | 07:54AM
hanalei395 wrote:
After George W. Bush called Iraq, Iran and N. Korea the "Axis of Evil" ... the U.S. attacked and invaded Iraq. ... Iran and N. Korea think that they are next.
on February 11,2013 | 07:12PM
Buckykat wrote:
Figured it wouldn't be long till somebody blamed Bush.
on February 11,2013 | 08:46PM
hanalei395 wrote:
In other words, don't blame Bush for his ill-fated, unnecessary, useless war in Iraq.
on February 12,2013 | 05:50AM
thebostitch wrote:
You, Iran and N. Korea have nothing to worry. Obama is not G.W.Bush. Obama is week and all he is going to do is talk, never any action.
on February 12,2013 | 04:28AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Really? Osama is sleeping with the fishes and the bad guys in Pakistan keep getting hit with drones no matter how much Pakistan protest. The fact is thee is NOTHING anyone can do to stop these nut cases. They gave nukes, and yes they got them under Bush so deal with that Buckyhat, So all you can do turn the economic screws and tell our friends in Japan and South Korea to develop their own nukes. Why? Because its only the threat of a nuclear arms race at their door that China will act to curb the idiots in the north.
on February 12,2013 | 05:43AM
hawaiikone wrote:
So your creative writing starts in 2000 and ends in 2008? Amusing.
on February 12,2013 | 06:53AM
thebostitch wrote:
Osama is sleeping with the fishes thanks to what G.W.Bush set up in order to catch him. G.W.Bush didn't get the credit because Obama had no class to do so.
on February 12,2013 | 11:13AM
honopic wrote:
Huh? Do YOU even understand what you're saying? Because I sure don't. Anybody else?
on February 12,2013 | 01:34PM
hanalei395 wrote:
bostitch wants action......Nuke 'em.
on February 12,2013 | 06:27AM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Obama is not G.W. Bush"? ....The Iranians and N. Koreans don't know that.... "Axis of Evil"..... To them, it's America's policy. And they're next.
on February 12,2013 | 07:25AM
thebostitch wrote:
Partial right.
on February 12,2013 | 11:14AM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Partial right" , which means.....N. Korea ... part of "Axis of Evil"...."Nuke 'em".
on February 12,2013 | 11:46AM
honopic wrote:
Obama is "week?" What grade you went grad? 3? 4?
on February 12,2013 | 01:32PM
bsdetection wrote:
Under Clinton, there were nuclear inspectors in North Korea and they had no nuclear weapons. George Bush, as a part of his ABC (anything but Clinton) policies, pulled the inspectors, and Korea developed what Bush called "nucular" weapons. Another Bush-Cheney-Rice foreign policy disaster.
on February 11,2013 | 08:17PM
Buckykat wrote:
on February 11,2013 | 08:49PM
South76 wrote:
It was Clinton's policy who got us into this mess.....Clinton wanted to talk/negotiate. We fed their starving people while the commie govt spent their money creating this nuclear facility. We talked and talked while they are building their nuclear bom facility. Remember the saying, actions speak louder than words; what we should have done is have blown their nuclear facilities into dust. The same thing will happen to Iran if the sheepish govt we have now just want to talk. While we are talking, the fanatic regime of Iran continues to build their nuclear facility. Their argument of only using nuclear facility to create energy is a facade; their ultimate goal is to like Kim jung on wave that nuclear stick. There are elements in the muslim world who are goiing to try and kill as many American as they could...what a better way to do a mass killing than probably getting a hold of nuclear bomb from a regime that is so anti American.
on February 12,2013 | 03:09AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Kim Dum Dum reminds me of the little boy who just got his first BB gun. He goes and shoots it off at anything and everything without thinking of the consequences.
on February 12,2013 | 05:42AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
All the posturing and talking will accomplish nothing, except make us a laughing stock. N. Korea has already stated that "the US is the primary target for a nuclear test and long range rocket launches". That's a threat! The only way to counter a threat is to warn them of the consequences and follow through. Our Navy practices shooting down missiles fired from Barking Sands. Tell N. Korea that the next time they fire a missile in the direction of the US or its allies, we will shoot it down over their territory and drop a rocket into their launch site. Then, do it.
on February 12,2013 | 06:24AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The illegal rocketeers in Kalihi are more of a threat to the US than Kim Dum Dum.
on February 12,2013 | 06:57AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Of course, Obama swore up and down Iran would never become a nuclear nation either.
on February 12,2013 | 07:23AM
localguy wrote:
China always calls for a "Calm Response" as they haven't got a clue what to do. Terrified if they cut off aid there will be an influx of refugees, making China look even more clueless than they already are.
on February 12,2013 | 09:29AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The problem is not so much that the Handsomest Man in the World would toss us a nuke. The danger is that this cash starved nation would sell nukes, even junk ones, to terrrists. It need not even be the big bangers - just the nuke material could be used to fashion "dirty" weapons. That's your threat.
on February 12,2013 | 11:13AM
honopic wrote:
What is lost in all of this posturing by North Korea is how harshly they treat their own citizens while trying to be a big player on the world stage. The book "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick is a look into the hell that is North Korea. It follows the lives of 6 ordinary citizens over a 15-year period under the most repressive regime in modern history. The people are starving to death, living without electricy in most areas, encouraged to spy on their neigbors and family members, and sent to prison for the slightest comment against the government. They have been told that 2 meals a day is good for them, they are not allowed access to the Internet, and displays of affection -- even teens holding hands -- are met with harsh punisment. A comment about the short physical stature of deceased dictator Kim Il-sung landed one man in prison at hard labor for 15 years. If these leaders don't care about their own people, what chance is there that they care what the rest of the world thinks of them?
on February 12,2013 | 01:46PM
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