North Korea launches long-range rocket

2012-12-12 07:28

Seoul - North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket on Wednesday, sharply escalating the security threat posed by the nuclear-armed state and provoking concern from China and global condemnation.

The launch triggered plans for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, which has imposed round after round of sanctions against North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes, so far to little avail.

North Korea insisted the mission was not a banned intercontinental missile test but was designed to place a scientific satellite in orbit, and said it had achieved all its objectives.

"The satellite has entered the orbit as planned," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement repeated later in a triumphant special broadcast on state television.

Nuclear weapons

Baek Seung-Joo of South Korea's Institute of Defence Analyses said the launch proved Pyongyang's determination "to complete a comprehensive nuclear weapons system" under new leader Kim Jong-Un.

"Apparently North Korea is trying to convince its people that the country remains unshakable under the new leadership and will never collapse," he said.

Kim Jong-Un was believed to be keen that the launch fell close to the first anniversary of the death of his father and former leader Kim Jong-Il on December 17.

A previous launch of the same Unha-3 rocket in April had ended in failure, with the carrier exploding shortly after take-off.

Success this time carries profound security implications, marking a major advance in North Korea's ability to mate an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability with its nuclear weapons programme.

In October, North Korea had said it already possessed rockets capable of striking the US mainland - a claim which many analysts at the time dismissed as bluster.

"Putting a satellite into orbit means that you have technology to get a warhead to a targeted area," said Masao Okonogi, honorary professor at Keio University in Japan.

"Now, North Korea is becoming not only a threat to the neighbouring countries but also a real threat to the United States," Okonogi said.

US 'monitoring situation'

Washington appeared to be reserving judgement on the launch's implications. A senior administration official said the United States had "noted" the firing and was "monitoring the situation".

Unusually China - North Korea's sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider - responded relatively quickly with a statement that pressed the country to abide by UN Security Council resolutions.

"All parties concerned should stay cool-headed and refrain from stoking the flames so as to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control," state news agency Xinhua said, decrying "bellicose rhetoric and gestures" by all.

North Korea is banned from carrying out missile tests under UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Japan's government said it "cannot tolerate" the "extremely regrettable" launch, and Britain "deplored" North Korea's decision to go ahead.

In Seoul, President Lee Myung-Bak called an emergency meeting of his National Security Council, while Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan condemned the North's "clear violation" of UN resolutions.

"This is a threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and around the world," Kim said.

'Strong response' expected from UN

The UN Security Council said it would meet on Wednesday, with one Western diplomat predicting a "strong response".

According to tracking reports from the South Korean and Japanese armed forces, the rocket took off from the Sohae centre around 09:51 (00:51 GMT).

Japan, which had deployed missile defence systems to destroy the rocket if it looked set to fall on its territory, said it passed over its southern island chain of Okinawa around 12 minutes after take-off.

The first and second stages fell in the sea west and southwest of the Korean Peninsula, while the third splashed down 300km east of the Philippines.

North Korea had originally provided a December 10-22 launch window, but extended that by a week on Monday when a "technical deficiency" was discovered.

In 2006 the Security Council imposed an embargo against North Korea on arms and material for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It also banned imports of luxury goods and named individuals and companies to be subject to a global assets freeze and travel ban.

In 2009, it imposed a ban on North Korea's weapons exports and ordered all countries to search suspect shipments.

According to Japanese reports, Japan, the United States and South Korea have agreed to demand the Security Council strengthen sanctions to levels that match those on Iran.

That would include increasing the list of financial institutions, entities and individuals subject to asset freezes.

Much will depend on the stance taken by UN veto holder China.

"China sets the maximum response level in the Security Council when it comes to North Korea," said a senior South Korean government official.

  • theMichaelHawthorne - 2012-12-12 07:38

    Seams that every country that doesn't dance to the tune of the US is against them.... shame...

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-12-12 07:55

      Can you actually read? The USA did not even respond. It is the nations around N Korea that are upset as well as the UN. Less weed, my friend...

      philani.goba - 2012-12-12 08:34

      @ Squeegee...and those nations are allies of who? the UN's biggest donor is who? - 2012-12-12 08:57

      Hey Michael, is it ok for countries like North Korea and Iran to have nuclear capabilites? especially when these contries openly admit to wanting to destroy other nations. i agree with squeegee, less weed!!

      mark.j.porter.5 - 2012-12-12 09:08

      Fascinating how there are so many people who think they can comment on this matter yet have very little or no idea of what the whole situation is about... The North are just trying to confirm their perceived "superpower" ability by pulling the wool future over their peoples eyes. Its all just a stunt. North Korea would be committing suicide if they actually bombed the US or anywhere for that matter. That being said the UN cannot just wait and hope they bluffing. After all we are talking about nuclear weapons. The US are monitoring the situation cause they have 1) too much history with Korea not to pay attention and 2) have a duty to keep tabs on this kind of thing due to their mishandling of Korea in the first place.

      richard.hipkin - 2012-12-12 09:47

      This is not a result of weeb, leave the good herb alone, this is more paint thinners...

  • nthato.thema1 - 2012-12-12 07:43

    The US has a new no1 enemy,with a reason. Are they ready? - 2012-12-12 08:58

      what is the reason?

  • mzakes.matabata - 2012-12-12 07:50

    No country on earth should be allowed to have nukes including the US.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 08:29

      Mzakes, Totally agree, but it might be impossible to achieve this, at least for a very long time, so in the meantime, the best is, to prevent any further countries having nuclear weapons!!! Unfair ?? Yes, it is also unfair, the price of chicken eggs keeps increasing, while the eggs are getting smaller!!!! - 2012-12-12 08:58

      Mzakes, spot on! agree full with you there.

  • NIPHONKOSI - 2012-12-12 08:16

    They are tired of the west thinking it runs this world. Good for them, time for Africa to do same.

      avremel.niselow - 2012-12-12 08:25

      Tell me, where would you rather live, the US which has hundreds of thousands of green card applications every year or North Korea where you can be sent to a forced labour camp for the crime of your brother trying to escape to the west?

      heinrich.spreeth - 2012-12-12 08:57

      What problems would nuclear missiles solve for Africa NhloniphoNkosi? - 2012-12-12 09:05

      hey Nkosi, Seriously?! Africa can't even look after its own people with funding from the US and the Western nations. how do you think Africa is then able to control being nuclear capable?

      NIPHONKOSI - 2012-12-12 09:11

      You must understand that any great country in the world right now has WMDs, even the US. Now who made them God to call the shots? To hell with them and their British thug friends. Africa must hold its ground if we gonna get anywhere and don't even try and school me of African problems. We are being screwed daily for minerals the least we can do is arm ourselves should the proverbial poop hit the fan.

      dewaldt.duplessis.5 - 2012-12-12 09:18

      Lol all nuclear weapons African countries could launch are wooden spears! SA army is no good not even Botswana would be able to do it not even talking about the rest primitive states of Africa. So dream on boy Africa is farting against thunder!

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 09:55

      The world is facing a battle between intelligent forward-thinking realists and fear-mongering racist war profiteers. The former are using words, the latter are using WMD. Let's hope that ultimately the word is more powerful than the sword.

      brendan.r.murphy.9 - 2012-12-12 10:27

      Ur living in ur own world buddy, for a start Africa should stay out of the international problems and deal with their own, seeing as we cant run a country with good health care, education, AIDS situation, poverty, crimes, rapes, murders and corruption.

  • jman.maluleke - 2012-12-12 09:02

    Go on guys, you are protecting your country against the likes of America who thinks they own the world. Launch another one guys nobody can stop you.

      dirk.naude.12 - 2012-12-12 09:26

      Just a way for the ''super powers'' to curb smaller nations from reaching their level. They need to have the edge, they like to be in control.

  • - 2012-12-12 09:10

    In 1950 to 1953 Northern Korea gave the US a snot-klap now the US is looking for another one.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-12 09:17

      and got a prize of being on average 6 inches shorter than their southern counter parts . (no need to say more)

      dirk.naude.12 - 2012-12-12 09:21

      They already had that klap during 1965-1973

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