By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria Monday left little doubt the United States would deliver a punishing response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, calling the facts "undeniable" and warning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable.
Laying out a moral case for eventual military intervention, Kerry called Assad's attacks against civilians "a moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience of the world." What is happening on the ground in Syria, Kerry said, "is real and it is compelling" and demanded a response from the international community. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Indonesia Monday, said "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification."
The United States is examining a variety of potential legal justifications for any type of military action. While three United Nations Security Council resolutions have failed to pass because of Russian veto power, officials say some in the administration believe it may be worth it to make the effort. But with Moscow already promising to declare any military intervention illegal, the United States and its allies would likely have to act without a U.N. mandate. FULL POST
By Jamie Crawford
The United Nations response to the ongoing carnage in Syria has been a "disgrace," Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee as U.N. ambassador, said on Wednesday.
"We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria – a disgrace that history will judge harshly," the former National Security Council staffer said at her confirmation hearing.
The Security Council, of which the United States is a member, has been stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes for more robust action in Syria.
A former academic on the issue of genocide, Power said it was incumbent on the United States to continue working with the Russians to try to stop one of the "worst cases of mass brutality" she has seen.
By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen, CNN
The Obama administration on Wednesday slammed North Korea's pugnacious rants toward South Korea and the West and a U.S. intelligence official called the strident remarks worrisome.
"The ratcheting up of rhetoric is of concern to us," the official said.
The question is whether this is "just rhetoric," he said. Or, "are things happening behind the scenes indicating the blustering has something to it."
Another U.S. official said there is a lot of uncertainty about North Korea's intentions.
By Richard Roth and Jethro Mullen
The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet Tuesday to consider a proposed resolution to authorize more sanctions against North Korea following the secretive regime's controversial nuclear test last month.
Pyongyang said the underground nuclear blast it conducted on February 12 was more powerful than its two previous detonations and used a smaller, lighter device, suggesting advances in its weapons program.
It was the first nuclear test the isolated state has carried out since its young leader, Kim Jong Un, inherited power in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who made building up North Korea's military strength the focus of his 17-year rule.
Like the regime's previous tests in 2006 and 2009, the move prompted widespread international condemnation, as well as a promise of tough action at the United Nations.
The United States and China, a key North Korean ally, have been negotiating for weeks on the wording of a proposed Security Council resolution.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr
North Korea's nuclear test Tuesday set off a diplomatic scramble for America's new secretary of state as the U.S. national security community began working with other countries to try to determine what North Korea truly achieved.
The test was was not a total surprise, senior administration officials said. North Korea warned the United States and China on Monday that it would be undertaking a nuclear test, two senior administration officials told CNN. The warning came in the form of a message through the "NY channel," which is the U.S. mission to the United Nations, North Korea's typical method for passing messages to the United States. The warning was not specific on timing, but the officials said Washington took it to mean the test could happen at any moment.
After the test was detected late Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with South Korea's foreign minister. He's also expected to talk with the foreign ministers for China, Japan and Russia. The United States began coordinating its own response with inter-agency calls between Washington and Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and Gen. James Thurman, commander of the US-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command, met with the South Korean defense minister.
The U.S. intelligence community and military began the process of assessing the test and North Korea's claims and by morning concluded an underground nuclear test had probably been conducted.
By Ed Payne, CNN
Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test - its third since 2006 - poured in Tuesday from around the world:
Barack Obama, U.S. president:
"This is a highly provocative act that ... 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.
North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region."
"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."FULL STORY
By Jethro Mullen
North Korea's plans for a new nuclear test, like most things that happen inside the reclusive state, are shrouded in mystery. But that's not stopping analysts and officials from making some informed guesses about what's going on.
Why is North Korea planning to conduct a nuclear test?
The North says the "higher level" test is part of its military deterrent in its confrontation with the United States, which it describes as "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Its declaration that it would carry out the test came just two days after the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of imposing broader sanctions on the regime in response to Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch in December that was widely viewed as a test of ballistic missile technology.
The pattern of events is similar to the lead-up to the previous nuclear tests North Korea carried out in 2006 and 2009.FULL STORY
A defiant North Korea is threatening both the United States and South Korea in response to the United Nations decision to invoke additional sanctions on Pyongyang for it's rocket launch late last year.
Calling the U.S. a sworn enemy of North Korea, the government of Kim Jong Un vowed to launch more missiles and conduct a nuclear test.
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr looks into how dangerous the North's nuclear capability really is.
By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Thursday that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test and further long-range rocket launches, all of which it said are a part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States.
The North's National Defense Commission said the moves would feed into an "upcoming all-out action" that would target the United States, "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the defense commission statement followed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday that condemned North Korea's recent rocket launch and expanded existing sanctions.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott and Jethro Mullen
The United States will push for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea for launching a rocket Wednesday, senior administration officials told CNN.
"We will go to New York with a full head of steam and work hard with our partners on the council to get a tough, swift reaction," one official said.
Washington may push for sanctions similar to those imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, the officials said. The measures would target financial institutions and would designate specific members of the North Korean government for sanctions as well.
"There is a pretty strong commitment to go with a seriousness of purpose," one official said.
It is unclear whether such tough measures would be approved by the Security Council. North Korean allies China and Russia, two of the council's permanent members, could exercise their veto power.