WASHINGTON, July 2, 2009 – North Korea’s launch of four short-range missiles yesterday didn’t surprise Defense Department officials, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

“What’s fair to say is that North Korea, [and its] behavior, continues to be unpredictable,” Bryan Whitman said, noting the activity “was not unexpected.”

Whitman said he doesn’t know of any specific violations of a June 12 United Nations Security Council nonproliferation resolution on North Korea associated with the launch.

North Korea has been the subject of near-universal condemnation since conducting a nuclear test in April. It also has tested intercontinental and intermediate-range missile technology.

A defense official, speaking on background, said he sees the reason for the launches as two-fold. The first is increased capability due to the improvement of North Korea’s missile systems. The second is that the country is using the actions to improve its position when dealing with the international community, which by all indications, he said, is having the reverse effect.

While this hypothesis isn’t unfounded, he said, it doesn’t negate the fact that the act should be cause for concern.

“I think that North Korea is looking for attention, and this is one of the ways that they seek to get attention,” the defense official said. “I don’t want to give the sense that there isn’t concern. There’s great concern about this unpredictable and dangerous activity that’s taking place.”

In fact, the country’s development of its nuclear program, as well as its continual improvement, testing, and exercising of ballistic missile capabilities and its proliferation activities, should be cause for concern, the official said.

“It’s the combination of all of these things,” he said. “It’s the direction in which North Korea continues to head that should cause not only the United States, but [also] the international community at large, some concern.”

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