North Korea claims successful rocket launch
Test indicates long-range capability
North Korea claimed success today after launching a long-range missile just days before the one-year anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called the launch of the Unha-3 rocket a “ground-breaking” event in a test Pyongyang insists is designed to put a satellite in orbit but which the United States sees as a violation of a UN Security Council ban on ballistic missile tests.
“The satellite has entered orbit as planned,” KCNA said in a statement which was later replayed in a triumphant special broadcast on state television.
North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement that the launch had appeared to be successful after the final section of the rocket reportedly fell into the East Sea off the Philippines, meaning it could technically reach territories within the US.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor immediately issued a strongly worded statement accusing North Korea of violating international codes of conduct.
"North Korea's launch today... is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council resolutions ... and undermines the global non-proliferation regime," he said.
Today's launch, which comes just five days before the anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, triggered plans for an emergency session of the UN Security Council which has already imposed a series of sanctions on North Korea.
In Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council half an hour after the test took place.
The launch marks the second attempt at a long-range rocket test by North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un following the death of his father.
Today’s events took many observers by surprise after experts said recently that North Korea’s plans were facing technical difficulties after Pyongyang extended the timeline for the test.
In October, North Korea claimed it had already achieved missile technology capable of reaching the US although many analysts dismissed the claims after a failed test of the same rocket in April.
Today’s test marks what appears to be the first confirmation that North Korea has achieved the technology to potentially fire a long-range nuclear warhead, expanding its threat beyond traditional enemies South Korea and Japan.
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