The U.S. government said Tuesday it is considering taking "appropriate" measures in response to North Korea's firing of two medium-range ballistic missiles.
In an unusually lengthy and strongly worded statement, the State Department stressed that launches by the communist nation using ballistic missile technology are a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
It said U.S. government information has confirmed that North Korea launched two Rodong missiles into the East Sea, a body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, on Wednesday (local time).
Both missiles flew easterly from a launch site near North Korea's west coast over its land mass before dropping into the sea, said the U.S. government.
"Coming on the heels of the DPRK's March 3 and February 27 Scud launches, these March 26 launches of medium-range No Dong ballistic missiles represent a troubling and provocative escalation that the United States takes very seriously," the State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Furthermore, it does not appear that North Korea issued any prior maritime notifications to warn of the launches, she added.
The U.S. is closely coordinating with its allies and partners, including those in the U.N. Security Council to "take the appropriate measures in response to this latest provocation and to address the threat to global security posed by the DPRK's nuclear and ballistic missile programs," Harf said.
The DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The North's firing of Rodong missiles marks the latest in a series of massive rocket, artillery or missile launches widely seen as protesting South Korea-U.S. joint military drills under way on the peninsula.
It also came as the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan held trilateral talks in the Netherlands on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. They focused on discussing the North Korean nuclear issue and pledged continued unity in handling it.
Diplomatic sources here say the U.S. has tried not to overreact to North Korea's short-range rocket launches.
The firing of medium-range ballistic missiles is different, however, they pointed.
They said the U.S. may seek to bring it to the U.N. Security Council in a bid to send a strong signal that the international community would not sit idle in the face of North Korea's provocations.
China would likely be reluctant to discuss the matter at the council, as it is trying to revive the six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programs.
Meanwhile, the head of U.S. Forces Korea told a U.S. congressional hearing that the North's leader Kim Jong-un has several motivations for the launches since Feb. 21.
A small portion was part of the normal winter training cycle, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said.
"The remainder, I think, were demonstrations, both for his regime and for demonstration to the people of capability," he added. "The other was a demonstration for us ... in terms of their capability to do that on short notice, with very little warning." (Yonhap)