N. Korea launches rocket: Live Report
- Published: 12/12/2012 at 09:46 AM
- Online news:
This ends AFP's Live Report on the launch of a long-range rocket by North Korea, which came just days before the first anniversary of its former ruler's death and which caught many observers by surprise.
Screen grab from North Korean TV on December 12, shows a female announcer wearing a pink "hanbok", the traditional Korean national dress, reading a statement on the country's long-range rocket launch. North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket on December 12 in defiance of UN sanctions threats over what Pyongyang's critics have condemned as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The launch provoked condemnation from the US and several of its regional allies and even China expressed concern at the successful launch by its wayward communist ally -- while also calling on all sides to avoid "stoking the flames".
An emergency session of the UN Security Council is planned for later, although North Korea has 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.
A previous launch of the same Unha-3 rocket in April had ended in embarrassing 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 capability with its nuclear weapons programme.
06:09 GMT: North Korea, however, has no doubts about the launch.
"The successful launch ... is a ground-breaking event in developing the country's scientific technologies and economy by exercising our rights for the peaceful use of space," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says.
"Our technicians and scientists successfully sent the.... satellite into orbit by holding the teachings of the great leader Kim Jong-Il in high esteem," it adds.
06:07 GMT: In Seoul my colleague Nam You-Sun says several shops and restaurants have their televisions tuned to the news, with some pedestrians stopping to listen to updates.
"The impression I got was that North Korea tried really hard to show something to the world -- where they have always miserably failed -- and finally succeeded. Good for them. But I still don't know what they are trying to achieve with this," said Katelyn Jun, a 23-year-old secretary.
"I suggest they focus on technology development that will benefit their people, not their military.'"
Lee Seung-Ho, 30, a businessman, agreed that people should come first.
"They (North Korea) just spent an enormous amount of money on one missile, and they deserve condemnation for spending money for propaganda purposes."
North Korea has suffered several severe famines in the past.
Oh Sang-Hwan, 28, businessman, was a bit more concerned.
"This is a threat to international security because it shows North Korea now has not only nuclear weapons but now also a missile. This shows the failure of the South Korean goverment's policies on North Korea -- of discontinuing talks and maintaining a hawkish position."
05:58 GMT: The tone on Twitter has darkened over the past hour as the significance of North Korea’s launch sinks in, with some users asking how Pyongyang was able to successfully place an object in orbit after a string of recent failures.
Others took to the micro blogging service to question the strength of sanctions against the North and speculate as to what had actually been sent into space.
“United Nations shown to be as useless as ever” read one tweet, while a user calling themselves MrCrackberry posted : “I imagine its probably been a pretty awkward night at The White House for Obama and team #northkorea
Kirsty_March wrote: North Korea having "an object" in orbit makes me feel a little panicky. Anyone consult the Mayans about this one?
CrisMarkos wrote: Congratulations to #NorthKorea for its totally pointless, wasteful rocket launch. Meanwhile, millions go hungry.
05:26 GMT:At the same time analysts are also warning that observers should not take for granted that North Korea is focused on missile technology.
Former Pentagon official Schoff says "it is still possible that North Korea has decided that they would rather have a rocket program or a space program than a long-range missile program. That may be optimistic, but it's certainly possible as they've jumped through hoops to show that they're in pursuit of a peaceful space program."
Schoff says the test's surprise timing likely showed that North Korea was determined to carry out a launch for domestic reasons.
"It does seem heavily influenced by the date and the desire to do something before the end of the year, around the one-year anniversary of Kim Jong-Il's death and to be a sort of vindication for the April failure."
The launch likely increased, at least temporarily, the standing of young leader Kim Jong-Un, Schoff says.
"If anything they carried out this test knowing what they were going to get in terms of criticism and condemnation and potentially an increase of sanctions, but they're betting that it won't be that bad and it will be a success on the domestic front."
05:25 GMT: Analysts are also concerned about the launch, with one, Ham Hyeong-Pil from the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, calling it "a real, tangible threat."
"It's quite a worrying situation. I think that the US has no choice but to recognise it as a real, tangible threat. I'm afraid that South Korea will also face more demands from the US in helping build its missile defence system (in Northeast Asia) or building more military cooperation in the region."
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the "successful launch of a missile capable of reaching the United States is a real theat to its people."
James Schoff, a former Pentagon official who is now a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the test made it more likely that North Korea could hit the US mainland, although it was premature to know for sure.
"This launch certainly bolsters their credibility when they say that they have missiles that can strike the United States. It's harder to wave that off after a successful test like this," Schoff said.
"It's a little early to evaluate it, but it's hard not to see this as a step forward for their program," he said.
Ham voiced a similar opinion: "If the launch was successful as reported by the North and its third-stage rocket part was successfully separated to send the satellite to the orbit, the rocket's range itself will be nearly 10,000 kilometres, long enough to quality for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)."
"It does not mean that the North can develop the ICBM immediately but is certainly a big technological breakthrough.."
For the future all three analysts forsee tougher action against North Korea.
"The launch will certainly deepen the isolation of the North in the international community. But at the same time the launch will help strengthen Kim Jong-Un's new leadership by binding its leadership and its people together under this breakthrough event," said Ham.
"Washington is certain to strenghten sanctions against North Korea, but it may feel further pressure to start dialogue, direct or indirect, with Pyongyang," Yang said.
05:17 GMT:UN leader Ban Ki-moon condemns the launch as a "provocative act" in clear breach of UN Security Council resolutions, UN spokesman Nesirky says.
"The secretary-general is concerned about the negative consequences that this provocative act may have on peace and stability in the region." adds Nesirky.
05:06 GMT: The United States condemns North Korea's "highly provocative" launch.
"North Korea's launch today... is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, contravenes North Korea's international obligations and undermines the global non-proliferation regime," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor says.
04:51 GMT: UN spokesman Martin Nesirky tells AFP that UN leader Ban Ki-moon was briefed on the North Korean rocket soon after the launch was reported and that Ban is expected to release a statement soon.
04:39 GMT: Unusually China -- North Korea's sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider -- has responded relatively quickly with a statement that presses 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.
"For years, the situation on the peninsula seems to have entered a reinforcing loop of misunderstanding, mistrust and animosity. The only viable way begins with trust-building," Xinhua added.
However, it said the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- the North's official name -- had "the right to conduct peaceful exploration of the outer space".
Beijing chairs the long-stalled six-party talks over the North's nuclear programme which also takes in the United States, Japan and South Korea.
North Korea insists the mission was not a banned intercontinental missile test but was designed to place a scientific satellite in orbit, and says it has achieved all its objectives.
04:35 GMT: On Twitter North Korea is trending as a topic, moving out of the shadow of the death of Miley Cyrus’ pet dog, with the majority of users retweeting breaking news reports while others accuse Pyongyang of prioritising the rocket over securing food supplies for its people.
Some tweets have also attempted to highlight the significance of Pyongyang’s choice of the date for the launch on 12.12.12.
04:28 GMT: North American Aerospace Defense Command officials say North Korea appears to have successfully launched an object into orbit on a missile detected and tracked by US missile warning systems.
"Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit," NORAD said in a statement. "At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America."
04:17 GMT: For people in the streets of Tokyo the launch of the rocket, which passed over its southern island chain of Okinawa around 12 minutes after take-off, seems to have come as something of a surprise.
"Did they send it up? I didn't know about that," said Naomi Ihara, 43, a saleswoman at a pastry shop in Tokyo's upmarket Ginza district.
"I saw the news yesterday which said they had postponed the launch and I felt kind of relieved. Honestly, that country gives us a lot of trouble. I don't have any positive feelings about" North Korea.
04:10 GMT: Baek Seung-Joo of the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses says the launch "shows the North's determination to become a nuclear power by completing the whole nuclear weapons system even under the new leadership of 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."
"Kim Jong-Un has repeatedly stressed a determination to improve lives of ordinary North Koreans...but the launch apparently showed the issue is somewhere at the very bottom of his priorities."
"Regardless of the success of the launch, the North will face a situation where it will be under tremendous presure from China, Japan and the United States."
"This will be the first major diplomatic test for Xi Jinping's leadership. China has repeatedly urged the North not to carry on the launch...I think China will face a tremendous diplomatic challenge down the road."
"What kind of actions China will take on the North will greatly impact Beijing's diplomatic policies not only on North Korea but also South Korea and the United States."
"The launch will no doubt have very negative impact to Obama administration's North Korea policies during his second term."
03:32 GMT: A senior official in the US administration said Washington has "noted" the launch and is monitoring the situation..
"We noted the launch and we are monitoring the situation. We will have further official comment later."
Washington and its allies have long insisted such launches are disguised tests for an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Last week, the head of the US Pacific Command said Washington had deployed naval ships equipped with ballistic missile defenses and was monitoring North Korea "very closely" ahead of the anticipated launch.
Two guided missile destroyers, the USS Benfold and the USS Fitzgerald, had been sent to the area ahead of the launch, a Navy official said at the time.
03:30 GMT: In a hard hitting statement to the media South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan condemns North Korea's rocket launch as a flagrant violation of UN resolutions and a threat to stability on the Korean peninsula and to the world at large.
"Our government strongly condemns, along with the international community, North Korea for ignoring repeated warnings and requests to cancel the launch and carrying on with such provocations," Kim tells reporters,vowing the North will be held accountable.
03:25 GMT: In an extremely rare "special broadcast" on North Korean state television, a female announcer wearing a pink hanbok -- the traditional national dress -- and sitting in front of a screen showing the North Korean flag, read a statement in a loud, triumphant tone. confirming the launch was successful.
Such special broadcasts are normally reserved for such occasions as announcing the death of leader Kim Jong-Il in December last year.
03:19 GMT: Following Japan's request the UN Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the launch, a Western diplomat says.
"The Japanese and the Americans have requested a Security Council meeting, which will take place late Wednesday morning" around 11:00 am (1700 GMT), the diplomat says.
03:10 GMT: Japanese newspapers on Wednesday handed out free extra editions outside Tokyo's busy train stations as news of the launch spread across the country, which has prickly relations with the communist North.
Etsuko Yoshida, a 75-year-old retiree in Tokyo, expressed surprise because earlier reports said the launch had been delayed.
"I thought it had been put off," she told AFP.
"I don't understand anything that country does. "
A 75-year-old man on the streets of Tokyo, who did not want to give his name, called the government in Pyongyang "too despotic".
"They have to restrain themselves when the international community is asking them not to do these things. I think they are doing it just because the leader wants to protect his status."
03:00 GMT: Kyodo news reporting from New York says Japan's envoy to the United Nations has asked for the Security Council to meet in response to the launch on Wednesday.
"Following the launch of what Japan believes to be a long-range missile, Japanese Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida said... the request was made to the council's chair, Morocco," Kyodo News reports.
02:57 GMT: The Tokyo currency and regional stock markets seemed little moved on the news with the dollar briefly jumping against the yen shortly after the launch. But the greenback quickly settled back to pre-launch levels.
"The market appears to be reacting to the news, but I doubt the sustainability of the rally," Mizuho Securities forex strategist Kengo Suzuki told Dow Jones Newswires.
02:55 GMT: Officials in South Korea and Japan confirm that all three stages of the rocket appear to have separated as scheduled.
However, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok cautioned that further analysis was required.
"There are many factors to determine whether it was successful or not ... we need more extensive analysis. We need more consultation with the United States since our own capability is limited," Kim tells reporters.
02:50 GMT: US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says "North Korea has once again defied the United Nations, its six-party partners, and the world by launching a long-range rocket under the guise of a so-called 'satellite test.'"
"It is clear that Pyongyang is moving ever closer towards its ultimate goal of producing a nuclear ballistic missile in order to threaten not only our allies in the Asia-Pacific region but the US as well," she says in a statement released late Tuesday US time.
Ros-Lehtinen says the only approach Pyongyang understands is one of "action and strength," and calls for tougher sanctions and greater diplomatic and defense cooperation between Washington and its Asia-Pacific allies "to contain the menace of North Korea."
"The illusion that Kim Jong-un would be any less ruthless or provocative than his father (Kim Jong-il) and grandfather (Kim Il-sung) before him has gone up in smoke on the missile launch pad," adds Ros-Lehtinen, a national security hawk.
She also takes a swipe at President Barack Obama.
"The Obama administration's policies of appeasement through proposed talks over the past four years has done nothing to deter North Korean aggression," she says.
02:45 GMT: Japanese TV carried blanket coverage of the launch with images of officials dipping into high-level meetings including Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto who donned a military-style flight jacket for the occasion.
Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that a citizen in Pyongyang responded to news of the launch by asking "Really? Is it true?".
02:35 GMT: In a statement British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the launch violates UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and said Britain will consult its partners in the UN to formulate a response.
"It is essential that the DPRK refrain from further provocative action and take constructive steps towards denuclearisation and lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he added in his statement.
Wednesday's launch was unexpected, after South Korean media reports and satellite imagery analysis by US experts suggested the rocket had been removed from the launch pad to repair a technical problem.
Pyongyang announced just three days ago that the launch may be delayed, and analysts said freezing weather and snow may be hampering preparations.
The North's decision to launch the rocket in winter has suggested a political imperative behind the timing. New leader Kim Jong-Un is believed to be extremely keen that it go ahead around the first anniversary of the death of his father and former leader Kim Jong-Il on December 17.
02:33 GMT: British Foreign Secretary William Hague has issued a statement deploring North Korea's launch.
"I strongly condemn the DPRK's satellite launch today. I deplore the fact that the DPRK has chosen to prioritise this launch over improving the livelihood of its people. We will be summoning the DPRK Ambassador to the UK to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office," he said.
02:30 GMT: "The launch of the second version of our Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite from the Sohae Space Centre... on December 12 was successful," KCNA said.
"The satellite has entered the orbit as planned," it added.
02:26 GMT: North Korea's official KCNA news agency is reporting the launch as a success and says a satellite has been put into orbit
02:25 GMT: North Korea last attempted to launch its multi-stage Unha-3 carrier in April, but it exploded shortly after take-off in an embarrassing outcome for Pyongyang which had issued a rare invitation to international media to witness the event.
A successful launch this time will have major security implications, showing that the North has advanced its ambitions to pair its nuclear weapons program with an intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
02:15 GMT: Debris from the rocket is expected to fall off the main Philippine island of Luzon, but the government there is still trying to confirm whether if this has happened.
In repeated radio broadcasts, civil defence chief Benito Ramos urged fishermen to avoid Luzon's northern coast.
Tokyo says it believes parts of the rocket have fallen into the sea off the Korean peninsula, with another part dropping into the ocean near the Philippines.
02:11 GMT: In Seoul, President Lee Myung-Bak has called an emergency meeting of his National Security Council to discuss the implications of the launch.
Japan's government found the launch intolerable, chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said.
02:08 GMT: Japanese authorities, who have been on high alert since the lift-off window opened, say the rocket passed over the southern island chain of Okinawa but they did not try to shoot it down.
"It is extremely regrettable that North Korea went through with the launch despite our calls to exercise restraint," chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura says.
"Our country cannot tolerate this. We strongly protest to North Korea."
02:05 GMT: The agency is quoting the officials as saying "the rocket stages fell on areas in line with its earlier announcement and the launch appears to be successful."
02:02 GMT: Yonhap is reporting the South Korea military as saying the launch "appears successful"
Welcome to AFP's Live Report on North Korea’s rocket launch, criticised by many in the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited a government source as saying the rocket took off from the Sohae satellite launch centre at 9:51 am (0051 GMT) and was immediately detected by navy vessels Seoul had deployed in the Yellow Sea.
There was no immediate report on the success of the launch, which Pyongyang insists is a scientific mission aimed at putting a satellite in orbit.
We will bring you unfolding coverage from our Asian bureaus.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency