North Korea spy satellite launch fails as rocket falls into the sea
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's attempt to put its first spy satellite into space failed Wednesday in a setback to leader Kim Jong Un's push to boost his military capabilities as tensions with the United States and South Korea rise.
After an unusually quick admission of failure, North Korea vowed to conduct a second launch after it learns what went wrong. It suggests Kim remains determined to expand his weapons arsenal and apply more pressure on Washington and Seoul while diplomacy is stalled.
South Korea and Japan briefly urged residents in some areas to take shelter after the launch.
The South Korean military said it was salvaging an object presumed to be part of the crashed North Korean rocket in waters 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of the southwestern island of Eocheongdo. Later, the Defence Ministry released photos of a white, metal cylinder it described as a suspected rocket part.
A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the country from conducting any launch based on ballistic technology.
Observers say North Korea's previous satellite launches helped improve its long-range missile technology. North Korean long-range missile tests in recent years demonstrated a potential to reach all of the continental US, but outside experts say the North still has some work to do to develop functioning nuclear missiles.
The newly developed Chollima-1 rocket was launched at 6:37 a.m. at the North's Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in the northwest, carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite. The rocket crashed off the Korean Peninsula's western coast after it lost thrust following the separation of its first and second stages, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.
South Korea's military said the rocket had “an abnormal flight” before it fell in the water. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that no object was believed to have reached space.
North Korean media said the country's space agency will investigate what it calls “the serious defects revealed” by the launch and conduct a second launch as soon as possible.
“It is impressive when the North Korean regime actually admits failure, but it would be difficult to hide the fact of a satellite launch failure internationally, and the regime will likely offer a different narrative domestically,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “This outcome also suggests that Pyongyang may stage another provocation soon, in part to make up for today's setback.”
Adam Hodge, a spokesperson at the US National Security Council, said in a statement that Washington strongly condemns the North Korean launch because it used banned ballistic missile technology, raised tensions and risked destabilising security in the region and beyond.
The UN imposed economic sanctions on North Korea over its previous satellite and ballistic missile launches but has not responded to recent tests because China and Russia, permanent Security Council members now locked in confrontations with the US, have blocked attempts to toughen the sanctions.
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