WASHINGTON - 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.
The U.S. government has already been talking with China and Russia -- as well as South Korea and Japan, the other partners in the ongoing six-party talks with North Korea -- about potential consequences if Pyongyang ignored international warnings and launched its missile.
Even if the Security Council fails to pass sanctions, the United States and other nations could impose unilateral measures, as they have with Iran, the senior administration officials said.
Pyongyang has previously pressed ahead with rocket launches and nuclear tests despite international sanctions.
Wednesday's launch was a breakthrough for the reclusive, nuclear-equipped state.
The long-range rocket successfully blasted off from a space center on the country's west coast and delivered a satellite into its intended orbit, the North Korean regime said. The launch followed a botched attempt in April and came just days after Pyongyang suggested a planned launch could be delayed.
North Korea's previous claims of successful launches have been dismissed by the United States and other countries, but this time it seemed to have pulled it off.
A U.S. official confirmed that the object is in orbit. U.S. officials were looking into whether it is an operating satellite, the official said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in Afghanistan, called the launch "clear provocation."
"We warned them not to do it. We've been very concerned about their firing this missile in violation of every international standard and rule," Panetta said, in an interview to air Wednesday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
He added that one reason the United States is working to "rebalance" the Pacific "is to deal with the threat from North Korea. And we will. We're prepared to do that and we'll respond if we have to."
Asked whether the launch indicates that North Korea could hit the United States if it chose to, Panetta responded that he is "very confident" the U.S. military could guard against such an attack. "Obviously the hope is that we never have to face that kind of threat, and that's why we continue to warn them against this kind of provocation," he added.
Iran, meanwhile, praised North Korea's move Wednesday.
General Masoud Jazaeri, a senior Iranian military official, expressed happiness over the launch, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
"Experience has shown that independent countries, by self confidence and perseverance, can quickly reach the height of self sufficiency in science and technology. Hegemonic powers, such as the United States, are unable to stop the progress of such countries," he said.
The sudden launch Wednesday ratcheted up tensions in East Asia.
It also undermined speculation that the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, might take steps to moderate his nation's uncompromising approach to foreign relations.
"This is something that we have to worry about," Philip Yun, who advised former President Bill Clinton on North Korean issues, said of the launch. He noted that it had taken the United States 24 attempts to successfully launch a similar kind of vehicle.
But North Korea still has a lot work of to do "if they're actually going to mount a nuclear device or a weapon on a rocket," said Yun, who is executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, a U.S.-based foundation that seeks to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
Many nations, such as the United States and South Korea, consider the rocket launch to be a cover for testing ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang has insisted its aim was to place a scientific satellite in space "for peaceful purposes."
Countries around the world quickly condemned Pyongyang's move on Wednesday, saying it breached U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The South Korean government said the launch was confrontational and a "threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the world." Japan called it "intolerable."
The United States described the launch as "a highly provocative act" that is "yet another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behavior."
"The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear