North Korea fires long-range rocket
BY Associated Press
Friday, April 13, 2012
4/13/12 at 6:28 AM
Defying international concerns, North Korea fired a long-range rocket early Friday, but it appears to have fallen into the sea, splintering moments after takeoff, South Korean and U.S. officials said.
The liftoff took place from the west coast launch pad in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said, citing South Korean and U.S. intelligence.
The two countries, as well as others, had warned against the launch, calling it a provocation and a cover to test missile technology. North Korea had said the rocket would only carry a satellite, touting it as a major technological achievement to mark the 100th birth anniversary of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, on Sunday.
Still, if the U.S. report of a failure, backed by Japan and South Korea, is true, it would be a major embarrassment for Pyongyang, which has invited dozens of international journalists to observe the rocket launch and other celebrations.
It has staked its pride on the satellite launch seen as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship as Kim Il Sung's grandson, Kim Jong Un, solidifies power following the death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.
"It blows a big hole in the birthday party," said Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the U.S. National Security Council, contacted in Washington.
He said the next step would be to watch whether North Korea would conduct a nuclear test, as has been speculated by the South Korean intelligence community.
In Pyongyang, there was no word about a launch, and at the time, state television was broadcasting video of popular folk tunes.
The United States, Britain, Japan and others have called such a launch a violation of U.N. resolutions prohibiting North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.
Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is the same type of rocket that would be used to launch a long-range missile at the U.S. and other targets. North Korea has tested two atomic devices but is not believed to have mastered the technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking for the Group of Eight nations after their foreign ministers met in Washington, said Thursday that all the members of the bloc agreed to be prepared to take further action against North Korea in the Security Council if the launch went ahead.
"Pyongyang has a clear choice: It can pursue peace and reap the benefits of closer ties with the international community, including the United States; or it can continue to face pressure and isolation," Clinton said.
Original Print Headline: N. Korea launches rocket