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
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
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
"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.