The Obama administration is facing its first test in an international crisis as the U.N. Security Council prepares Sunday for an emergency session to consider a response to North Korea's rocket launch earlier in the day
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is leading the U.S. delegation to the world body. Echoing President Obama and other administration officials, Rice called North Korea's launch "serious and provocative" and said Pyongyang's actions demonstrate why the U.S. is concerned about its capability of delivering weapons.
"That's what we're most concerned about preventing, and preventing North Korea from sharing that technology with others," Rice said on ABC's "This Week."
"The United States believes that this action is best dealt with -- the most appropriate response would be a United Nations Security Council resolution," she added.
Speaking in Prague, Czech Republic, earlier in the day, Obama called for swift new U.N. sanctions on North Korea for what is widely deemed an effort by the communist nation to demonstrate its ability to threaten the use of long-range nuclear weapons.
"This action demands a response from the international community, including from the United Nations Security Council to demonstrate that its resolution cannot be defied with impunity," he said before delivering a speech on global nonproliferation.
North Korea launched a multistage rocket Sunday morning local time that flew over Japanese airspace. Tokyo officials said it appears no debris hit its territory.
North Korea's state-run media claimed that the rocket managed to put a satellite in orbit that is now transmitting melodies honoring the communist country's founder, Kim Il Sung, and his son, the current leader, Kim Jung-Il. It is also sending "measurement data back to Earth," North Korean media reported.
But the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command said no satellite reached orbit.
"Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan. The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean. No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan," NORAD and NORTHCOM said in a statement. The agencies said the space launch vehicle did not threaten North America or Hawaii and so the U.S. "took no action in response to this launch."
A State Department official told FOX News that the U.S. government is still trying to obtain trajectory information and other data to be in a position, by the time the Security Council session convenes, to offer a "definitive response" to North Korea's claim to have placed a satellite into orbit. The U.S. government is relying both on internal agencies, like the National Reconnaissance Office, and on outside entities that could provide "third-party confirmation," such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.
A joint statement by the U.S. and European Union said North Korea's ballistic missile launch "demands a response from the international community, including from the U.N. Security Council to demonstrate that its resolutions cannot be defied with impunity."
However, the statement offered no suggestions for punishment, instead saying North Korea could rejoin the international community to share in the prosperity and development seen in the rest of Asia.
Rice said the U.S. has been in close consultation with Japan and South Korea about the appropriate reaction by the world community and has consulted over the last several days, including Sunday morning, with Russia and China. Those nations, with the U.S. and North Korea, make up the six parties involved in negotiating North Korea's nuclear disarmament.
"The U.S. is working very closely with Japan and we will be in consultation with our partners inside the council, trying to get the most appropriate and strong response we can possibly get," she said.
But former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton told FOX News that he has learned that the first draft of the resolution being circulated in the Security Council by the U.S. and Japan "is already pretty weak."
"I think that the idea that the council today or later this week is going to do anything significant is pretty remote," Bolton said. "I can guarantee you from my own experience resolutions don't get stronger, they get weaker as time goes on."
Bolton said the most troubling aspect of the launch is the tepid response by the Obama administration. He said going to the Security Council is "space filler," but is unlikely to contain any action items to respond to North Korea's defiance of two U.N. resolutions.
"What is the next step for the Obama administration? It appears to be simply to return to the six-party talks. If that's all there is, that tells the North Koreans a) we got away with this launch; b) we can probably do it again; and it has implications for Iran and other would-be proliferators as well," Bolton said.
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said that any reaction will require China's cooperation "because if we don't have the sanctions that China agrees with it will have no impact on North Korea."
"What Obama said is exactly right. The follow-through is what is important. We can not let this pass, it is a dangerous provocation. And it is going to take action that China would sign onto as well," Hutchison said.
Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol said North Korea's test was "a nice demonstration" of its abilities, but is also "a de facto Iranian test" since Iran is North Korea's main customer of for its nuclear programs.
Kristol said with that in mind, Obama should decide that the launch is intolerable, and "act accordingly."
"The notion that getting the international community together or the U.N. Security Council together to help is not going to work," Kristol said. "If it makes the Europeans feel better to talk a little bit that way, I suppose you can argue it doesn't do much harm, unless it distracts him and his own administration from being serious about the real threats out there.