North Korea’s Rocket Launch Fails

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 10:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States and several Asian nations say North Korea launched a three-stage, long-range rocket early Friday, but that it appeared to fall apart and harmlessly crash into the sea shortly after blast off.

The U.S. Northern Command says initial indications show that the first stage of the rocket crashed into the Yellow Sea, 165 kilometers off the coast of South Korea. It said the remaining stages of the rocket also failed before falling into the water.

Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka says the rocket appears to have flown for about a minute, reaching 120 kilometers up in the air, before splitting into four pieces.

“We have received information that there was some sort of object launched. It appears to have flown for over a minute and then fallen into the ocean. There has been absolutely no effect on our territory.''

The White House promptly condemned the launch, which is largely believed to be an overt ballistic missile test. In a statement issued shortly after the blast-off, a White House spokesman said North Korea's “provocative” action threatens regional security, violates international law, and goes against its recent commitments.

North Korea sent a rocket off early Friday from a launch pad in Tongchang-ri in North Pyongan province, in defiance of United Nations resolutions and warnings from the United States and other nations of repercussions.

Pyongyang said the rocket was placing a satellite in orbit. But Washington and its allies, South Korea and Japan, said it was a cover for testing Pyongyang's ballistic missile capabilities.

The Group of Eight leading industrialized nations also condemned the launch and urged North Korea not to conduct any further tests using ballistic missile technology. It also warned it would consider taking “appropriate actions” at the U.N. Security Council, which meets on Friday to discuss the issue.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is convening a ministerial meeting on the issue. The Security Council of Japan is also set to hold a meeting on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, military forces in South Korea and Japan remain on high alert for what they say could be more provocative actions by North Korea, which is currently in a month of celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's founding leader.

U.S. officials have said that Pyongyang may be planning to follow the launch with what would be its third underground nuclear weapons test. Satellite intelligence photographs made available to VOA and other news organizations this week show evidence of preparations for such a test.

North Korea's launch plan has derailed a recent agreement with the U.S., under which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear weapons and missile programs. The U.S. was to have delivered 240,000 tons of badly needed food aid to the North.