WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday condemned North Korean "propaganda displays" but said Pyongyang's "failed" missile launch was a provocative act that breached its commitments and harmed Asian security.
"North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
The fact that the first US reaction came from Carney, and not a higher level official, or President Barack Obama, reflected a desire by top officials to deprive the Stalinist state of publicity or a propaganda reward for its action.
"Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," Carney said.
"While this action is not surprising given North Korea's pattern of aggressive behavior, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community.
"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region."
North Korea had said the rocket would place a satellite in orbit for peaceful research purposes, but Western critics see the launch as a thinly veiled ballistic missile test, banned by United Nations resolutions.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the rocket disintegrated into several pieces and the debris fell into the Yellow Sea off South Korea.
Carney repeated US statements that Obama was willing to engage North Korea, a headache for successive US presidents, but said Pyongyang must live up to international obligations to merit the fruits of US diplomacy.
"North Korea's long-standing development of missiles and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not brought it security - and never will.
"North Korea will only show strength and find security by abiding by international law, living up to its obligations, and by working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors."
The White House did not immediately mention an already suspended deal to send food aid to the nuclear-armed North's impoverished population.
The scheme foundered after the North's announcement that it would launch the rocket, which Washington said proved Pyongyang could not be trusted.