TOKYO — Japan’s foreign minister on Tuesday condemned North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile, saying the rocket that passed over Japan air space could have hit land and hurt people and property.

Calling the communist country’s actions "rude," "provocative" and "a direct threat," Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone repeated worldwide criticisms that North Korea’s launch Sunday violated a United Nations resolution banning it from firing ballistic missiles.

"To be very, very blunt about it, this is something we just can’t stand, can’t bear," Nakasone said during a 40-minute news briefing at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "This is not a situation that can be tolerated."

At about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, North Korea fired a long-range Taepodong-2 missile toward Japan and Hawaii. U.S. officials have called the launch a failure, and said the first stage of the rocket fell into the Sea of Japan and the remaining part fell into the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea claims it sent a satellite into space, where it is orbiting and broadcasting patriotic songs. U.S. and Japanese officials have said they have tracked no such object.

Japanese officials have declined to say whether they viewed the event as a missile or a satellite launch. Nakasone did not hesitate to call the action a threat to peace and stability.

"I feel very strongly that this launch represents a very serious provocative action that endangers Japanese security," Nakasone said.

It was the second time North Korea launched a missile that passed over Japan; the first was in 1998.

Nakasone called on China to resume six-party talks with North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. He also asked North Korea to make good on its promise to investigate past allegations that Japanese citizens were kidnapped and taken to the reclusive country.

He said that before Sunday, he and his counterparts from South Korea and the United States discussed responding to the launch with a united front. President Barack Obama immediately called for an international consensus condemning the launch.

Later this week, Japan is expected to issue a revised version of sanctions against North Korea, the Kyodo News Agency reported Tuesday. Nakasone did not speak of the possible sanctions, which were last revised in 2006, the year North Korea launched seven missiles and tested a nuclear explosive device.

South Korea is reviewing options for sanctions against its northern neighbor, a spokesman for the Blue House said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, South Korean workers continued to cross the northern border to Kaesong to work at factories that use North Korean labor to produce South Korean goods, according to a spokesman at South Korea’s Ministry of Unification. Usually about 1,000 South Koreans make the commute each day. Since the launch, only about 700 have been traveling to Kaesong, the spokesman said.

"It is because that we are trying to secure the safety of South Korean workers," said the spokesman, who declined to be named.

North Korea on Monday used its government-run press agency to condemn South Korea’s cooperation with the United States to propose more sanctions in response to the launch.

When asked whether North Korea was a sovereign nation with a right to pursue a space program, Nakasone said the country’s past actions prompted too much suspicion to trust its technological aspirations. But, he said, if North Korea came to the negotiating table and proved a good neighbor, Japan and others might take a different tact.

"In the future, if North Korea were to proceed with a denuclearization of its program and if it eventually began to act in a way that did not earn condemnation of the international community ... there would be no remaining concerns," Nakasone said. "Well, then I think it is only natural that, as with any other country in the world, North Korea has the right to develop its space program."

Hana Kusumoto and Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.

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