North Korea’s Rocket Launch Reported Failed

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 9:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States, Japan and South Korea say that North Korea's three-stage rocket launch early Friday failed.

U.S. officials say initial indications show that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea.

Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka says the rocket appears to have flown about 120 kilometers up into the air before splitting into four pieces and falling into the Yellow Sea.

“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 despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments. The statement says the United States remains vigilant in face of the provocation.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, said there have been no reports of damage in Japan after North Korea launched what appeared to be a missile into space. He called on the nation to remain calm.

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 U.N. Security Council will discuss the launch and possible response to North Korea's defiant act in a session on Friday.

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.

The Group of Eight leading industrialized nations earlier Thursday ordered Pyongyang to cancel the launch. The group issued a strong statement after a meeting in Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the U.N. Security Council would take further action if Pyongyang goes ahead with a rocket launch, which many believe is a ballistic missile test.

Speaking in Washington after meeting with her counterparts from the G8, Clinton also said that North Korea could choose between isolation and closer ties with the international community.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged North Korea to heed the call of the international community and cancel the upcoming rocket launch. Mr. Ban spoke Thursday in Geneva, as North Korean engineers were preparing the launch.

The U.N. chief repeated warnings that the launch will raise tensions in the region. He also said it “clearly” violates a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, military forces in South Korea and Japan have been on high alert on what the North had said was the first day of a five-day window for the launch.

South Korea had threatened to shoot down the rocket if it appeared likely to crash into South Korean territory. The Philippines, located near the planned splashdown site of the rocket's first stage, has diverted airline flights and ordered fishermen to avoid the area.

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.