Panetta Condemns North Korean Test, Calls Regime Danger to U.S.

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 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.

Source: By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service