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NKorea Praises Rocket Launch           02/07 12:15

   For North Korea's propaganda machine, the long-range rocket launch Sunday 
carved a glorious trail of "fascinating vapor" through the clear blue sky. For 
South Korea's president, and other world leaders, it was a banned test of 
dangerous ballistic missile technology and yet another "intolerable 
provocation."

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- For North Korea's propaganda machine, the 
long-range rocket launch Sunday carved a glorious trail of "fascinating vapor" 
through the clear blue sky. For South Korea's president, and other world 
leaders, it was a banned test of dangerous ballistic missile technology and yet 
another "intolerable provocation."

   The rocket was launched from North Korea's west coast only two hours after 
an eight-day launch window opened Sunday morning, its path tracked separately 
by the United States, Japan and South Korea. No damage from debris was reported.

   North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space program, said 
it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 
4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after liftoff. It vowed 
more such launches. A U.S. official said it might take days to assess whether 
the launch was a success.

   The launch follows North Korea's widely disputed claim last month to have 
tested a hydrogen bomb. Washington and its allies will consider the rocket 
launch a further provocation and push for more tough sanctions.

   The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday morning at the 
request of the U.S. and Japan which said Pyongyang had violated a council ban 
on ballistic missile launches. Japan's U.N. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said 
before heading into the closed meeting that the missile went over Japan and 
landed near the Philippines, "and this is a clear threat to the lives of many 
people."

   Motohide said that while "China calls for more dialogue," what's needed now 
is pressure and speedy adoption of tough new sanctions. The United States and 
China have been working on a new sanctions resolution since North Korea's 
nuclear test on Jan. 6.

   North Korean rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the 
North's ultimate goal of a nuclear armed missile that could hit the U.S. 
mainland. North Korea under leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to bolster its 
nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy 
meant to collapse Kim's government. Diplomats are also pushing to tighten U.N. 
sanctions because of the North's Jan. 6 nuclear test.

   In a development that will worry both Pyongyang and Beijing, a senior South 
Korean Defense Ministry official, Yoo Jeh Seung, told reporters that Seoul and 
Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the THADD 
missile defense system in South Korea. North Korea has long decried the 28,500 
U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and Beijing would see a South Korean 
deployment of THAAD, which is one of the world's most advanced missile defense 
systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.

   In a statement, North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration, 
in typical propaganda-laden language, praised "the fascinating vapor of Juche 
satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the 
threshold of the Day of the Shining Star." Juche is a North Korean philosophy 
focusing on self-reliance; the Day of the Shining Star refers to the Feb. 16 
birthday of former dictator Kim Jong Il. North Korea has previously staged 
rocket launches to mark important anniversaries.

   South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said a South Korean 
Aegis-equipped destroyer detected the North Korean launch at 9:31 a.m. The 
rocket's first stage fell off North Korea's west coast at 9:32 a.m., and the 
rocket disappeared from South Korean radars at 9:36 a.m. off the southwestern 
coast. There was no reported damage in South Korea.

   The U.S. Strategic Command issued a statement saying that it detected and 
tracked a missile launched on a southern trajectory, but that it did not pose a 
threat to the United States or its allies.

   Japanese broadcaster NHK showed video of an object visible in the skies from 
the southern Japanese island of Okinawa that was believed to be the rocket. 
South Korea's Yonhap news agency later backed away, without elaborating, from a 
report that said the rocket might have failed.

   The global condemnation began almost immediately.

   South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the launch an "intolerable 
provocation." She said the North's efforts to advance its missile capabilities 
were "all about maintaining the regime" in Pyongyang and criticized the North 
Korean leadership for ignoring the hardships of ordinary North Koreans.

   Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to "take action to totally protect 
the safety and well-being of our people." U.S. National Security Adviser Susan 
Rice called the North's missile and nuclear weapons programs a "serious threats 
to our interests --- including the security of some of our closest allies."

   The Foreign Ministry in China, the North's only major ally and its protector 
in the U.N. Security Council, where Beijing wields veto power, expressed 
"regret that, disregarding the opposition from the international community, the 
(North) side obstinately insisted in carrying out a launch by using ballistic 
missile technologies." A statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry 
criticized the rocket launch, calling on the North Korean leadership "to think 
about whether the policy of opposing the entire international community is 
serving the interests of the country."

   South Korean opposition lawmaker Shin Kyung-min, who attended a closed-door 
briefing by the National Intelligence Service following Sunday's launch, said 
the NIS believes that the rocket's payload satellite was about twice as heavy 
as the 100-kilogram (220-pound) satellite it launched in 2012. The NIS 
estimates that if the rocket would have been used as a missile, it would have 
had a potential range of about 5,500 kilometers (3,417 miles), Shin said.

   Kim Jong Un has overseen two of the North's four nuclear tests and three 
long-range rocket launches since taking over after the death of his father, 
dictator Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. The U.N. Security Council prohibits North 
Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity. Experts say that ballistic 
missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and 
other technology.

   "If North Korea has only nuclear weapons, that's not that intimidating. If 
they have only rockets, that's not that intimidating, either. But if they have 
both of them, that means they can attack any target on Earth. So it becomes a 
global issue," said Kwon Sejin, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of 
Science and Technology.

   In 2013, North Korea conducted a nuclear test and then unnerved the 
international community by orchestrating an escalating campaign of bombast, 
including threats to fire nuclear missiles at the U.S. and Seoul.

   North Korea has spent decades trying to develop operational nuclear weapons. 
It has said that plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at its main 
Nyongbyon nuclear complex are in operation.

   The North is thought to have a small arsenal of crude atomic bombs and an 
impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles. But it has yet to 
demonstrate that it can produce nuclear bombs small enough to place on a 
missile, or missiles that can reliably deliver its bombs to faraway targets.

   After several failures testing a multistage, long-range rocket, it put its 
first satellite into space with a long-range rocket launched in December 2012.

   The North's recent activity comes amid a long-standing diplomatic stalemate. 
Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program in 
exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.


(KA)


 
 
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