North Korea admits that its much publicised rocket launch, which international journalists were invited to watch, fell to the ground only minutes after taking off.
The rocket was fired last night (7.39am local time) from the west coast launch pad in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri, but it failed when the rocket splintered into pieces moments after lift-off, South Korea’s defence ministry said.
The failure of the launch was confirmed by American officials and by Tokyo – which had been prepared to shoot down any rocket flying over its territory. South Korean president Lee Myung-bak held an emergency security meeting following North Korea’s attempted rocket launch.
The international community said the launch was a disguised attempt at testing long-range missile technology. But North Korean space officials said the Unha-3 rocket was meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns.
North Korea had hoped the launch would be seen as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship as Kim Jong Un solidifies power following the death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago. North Korean officials said its scientists were assessing what had caused the problems.
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. White House spokesman
In what is expected to have been of huge embarassment to North Korea, the country had invited dozens on international journalists to observe the launch and other celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung on Sunday.
Following the failed rocket launch, tens of thousands of people attended the unveiling ceremony of bronze statues of North Kim Il Sung and the late leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang [pictured below].
At the time of the launch in Pyongyang state television was broadcasting video of popular folk tunes.
World News blog: North Korea’s embarrassing failure
“It blows a big hole in the birthday party. It’s terribly embarrassing for the North,” said Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the US National Security Council.
He said the next step would be to watch whether North Korea would conduct a nuclear test, as the the South Korean intelligence community has speculated.
“We have to watch very carefully what they are doing now at the nuclear test site and how they explain this with all those foreign journalists in the country,” Mr Cha said.
William Hague said the country’s ambassador would be summoned to the Foreign Office later today to discuss concern over the actions in the face of international condemnation.
Mr Hague said he was “deeply concerned” about the launch, adding: “Such a launch uses ballistic missile technology and, as such, is a clear violation of UNSCR 1874.” The permanent under-secretary, Simon Fraser, will summon the DPRK ambassador to the foregin office and “make clear that the DPRK can expect a strong response from the international community if it continues to develop its missile and nuclear capabilities,” he added.
“I strongly urge the DPRK to suspend all missile and nuclear-related activity and to commit to re-engaging with the international community.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said North Korea’s actions were provocative. “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,” he said.
“While this action is not surprising given North Korea’s pattern of aggressive behaviour, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community.
“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and is fully committed to the security (of) our allies in the region.”