Neighbors says North Korea has fired long-range rocketSEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a long-range rocket this morning in its second launch under its new leader, defying warnings from the U.N. and Washington only days before South Korean presidential elections.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a long-range rocket this morning in its second launch under its new leader, defying warnings from the U.N. and Washington only days before South Korean presidential elections.
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a nationally televised news conference that a South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer deployed in the Yellow Sea detected the launch but South Korea still didn’t know the launch was successful. North Korea had indicated technical problems with the rocket and recently extended its launch window to Dec. 29.
Japan said one part of the rocket landed west of the Korean Peninsula and another part was expected to have landed east of the Philippines. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak planned an emergency national security council meeting today, and Japan protested the rocket launch.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power after his father Kim Jong Il died on Dec. 17 last year, and the launch also comes about a month before President Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term.
The North said the Unha rocket is meant to put a satellite in orbit. A similar launch in April broke apart shortly after liftoff, and the condemnation that attempt received is likely to be repeated. Washington sees the launch as a cover for a test of technology for missiles that could be used to strike the United States.
Rocket tests are seen as crucial to advancing North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions. North Korea is thought to have only a handful of rudimentary nuclear bombs. But Pyongyang is not yet believed capable of building warheads small enough to mount on a missile that could threaten the United States.
North Korea has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range rocket. Experts say ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology. This is the fifth attempt at a long-range launch since 1998, when Pyongyang sent a rocket hurtling over Japan. Previous launches of three-stage rockets weren’t considered successful.
Washington sees North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to world security and to its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea.
North Korea under new leader Kim has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy.
The launches today and in April came from a site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, about 35 miles from the Chinese border city of Dandong, across the Yalu River from North Korea. The site is 45 miles from the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex, and is said to have better roads and facilities than previous sites and to allow a southerly flight path meant to keep the rocket from flying over other countries.
Tensions are high between the rival Koreas. The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, and Washington stations nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea as a buttress against any North Korean aggression. Tens of thousands more are in nearby Japan.
This year is the centennial of the birth of national founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un. According to North Korean propaganda, 2012 is meant to put the North on a path toward a “strong, prosperous and great nation.”