South Korea is calling for swift action against North Korea, which has successfully launched a rocket into space and put a satellite in orbit. Seoul views the launch as a provocation and threat to regional security.
"This launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions… and a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and around the world," said South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan, reading from a government statement. "North Korea's launch this time will only result in the deepening of its isolation from the international community."
The Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the rocket launch later on Wednesday. It had previously adopted resolutions that ban North Korea from using ballistic missile technology following previous unsuccessful rocket tests.
South Korea's neighbors as well as the United States have all expressed concern over North Korea's actions. The latest rocket launch comes at a sensitive time in East Asia where leadership transitions are underway in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.
“Since all the world's power is shifting, North Korea wants its voice heard and to show that it wants to lead the conversation,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongkuk University in Seoul.
South Koreans will elect a new president on December 19. Conservative candidate Park Geun-hye is in a close race with the opposition's Moon Jae-in.
“It's hard to say whether the rocket launch will benefit Park or Moon,” Kim said. “But if long term peace on the peninsula is important, the candidate who supports open dialogue with North Korea will be favored by the South Korean voters.”
Moon has pledged to rebuild ties with Pyongyang, which were severed during current President Lee Myung-bak's administration.
A rocket that has rattled the region
Park, who is vying to become the nation's first female leader, is seen as taking a comparatively tougher stance on North Korea.
But while the rocket launch has rattled the region, the South Korean government believes Pyongyang's actions are aimed at a domestic audience.
“The purpose of the rocket launch is to cement Kim Jong-un's succession to power,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesperson for South Korea's Ministry of Defense.
Young ruler Kim Jong-un will soon mark his one-year anniversary since inheriting control of North Korea. His father, Kim Jong-il, died suddenly on December 17, 2011. The late Kim assumed power in 1994, following the death of his own father, founding leader Kim Il Sung.