John Bolton appeared to scoff Wednesday at suggestions the United Nations would pursue a harder line toward North Korea in the aftermath of its successful rocket launch that for the first time put a satellite into wobbly orbit.
The launch Wednesday touched off speculation that North Korea, with help from Iran, was moving closer to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear strike at the United States or any of its allies.
Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush, called it "a big deal," but told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that U.N. Security Council threats of additional sanctions won't do any good.
The Security Council condemned the launch as a violation of previous sanctions imposed in 2006 and 2009 banning North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
"They obviously weren't deterred by the existing sanctions, and with good reason," Bolton said. "Every step North Korea takes closer to a true, deliverable nuclear weapons capability, the more they believe that the United States and other countries that are worried will come to try to negotiate with them.
"So it's not that their successes breed stronger reactions against what they are doing," he continued. "They think that the rest of the world will play into their hands, and for 20 years they have been right about that."
Bolton, pointing to Iran's efforts over the past 15 years to help North Korea develop its ballistic missile technology, dismissed Pyongyang's claim the launch was aimed only at putting an earth surveillance satellite into orbit.
"This has nothing to do with launching . . . weather or communications satellites, which is what both North Korea and Iran are saying," Bolton said, adding that the fact "they got something into orbit at all is noteworthy."
"South Korea, an incredibly prosperous society, has itself failed to orbit satellites," Bolton noted. "So for this impoverished, and the most heavily sanctioned regime on earth, [to do it] tells you about U.N. Security Council sanctions."
"It is a big deal, every step of the way," he added.
With the launch, North Korea joined a fairly exclusive club of only 10 nations that have put a satellite into orbit. The launch caused a stir even in China, a long-time ally of North Korea, which warned Pyongyang a month ago not to attempt it.
On Wednesday, the Chinese government said it "regrets" the launch, but gave no clear indication if it would support further actions by the United Nations.
Bolton said unless China takes a harder line, North Korea can be expected to continue with its efforts aimed at intimidating the United States.
"They have succeeded in that before. And China, which could bring enormous pressure on North Korea, gets away with issuing statements about regret," he told Van Susteren.
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