Obama calls N. Korea nuclear test a threat to US, ‘highly provocative’

President Obama on Tuesday slammed North Korea for its latest nuclear test, calling the move a “highly provocative act” and a threat to the United States.

“This is a highly provocative act that, following its December 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability, violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation,” said Obama in a statement released by the White House. 

Obama said North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program posed “a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security,” and urged the international community to take steps to rein in Pyongyang.  

“The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies,” Obama said.

North Korea on Tuesday said that it had detonated a nuclear device. Reports said that South Korean estimates of the blast suggested that it was more powerful than the two previous nuclear tests conducted by Pyongyang.

The test is the first conducted by new leader Kim Jong Un, who assumed power in 2011. North Korea had long threatened to carry out the latest test despite warnings from the U.S.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said last month that a test “would only increase Pyongyang’s isolation.” 

Wednesday's explosion immediately drew international condemnation.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "deplorable" and "a clear and grave violation" of U.N. resolutions.

"The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation," the spokesman said. "He once again urges the DPRK to reverse course and work towards de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

And Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called it "deeply regrettable."

"I understand that the DPRK announced it had carried out a third test of a nuclear weapon, despite calls from the international community not to do so," Amano said. "This is deeply regrettable and is in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions."

The test follows moves by the United Nations and Obama administration to tighten sanctions against North Korea. Last month, the Treasury Department also froze the assets of a company believed to be involved with the North Korean nuclear program. 

Reports said the U.N. Security Council had scheduled an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the nuclear test. 

The test is also likely to bring further criticism from GOP lawmakers on the Obama administration. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in a statement on Tuesday said the nuclear test "demands the Obama Administration’s attention."

"This test comes just weeks after the North Korean regime stated its goal is to develop a missile to strike the United States and mere days after it produced an outrageous video of a missile attack on New York City," he said. 

“The Obama Administration must replace its failed North Korea policy with one that is energetic, creative, and focused on crippling the Kim regime’s military capabilities through stringent sanctions that tackle its illicit activities and cuts off its flow of hard currency. Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow.”

Royce has joined Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on legislation that would toughen sanctions and calls on Obama to designate the nation a state sponsor of terrorism.

—This story was updated at 7:22 a.m.