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April 12, 2012

World Reacts to Failed North Korea Rocket Launch

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many other international leaders have condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range missile, even though the test was a failure.  The rocket fell into the sea about one minute after liftoff.

North Korea's official news agency acknowledged the missile broke apart, preventing its cargo - described as a weather satellite - from reaching Earth orbit.  

Pyongyang defied international protests by going ahead with the launch despite the widespread belief that the operation actually was a test of a long-range ballistic missile that could carry warheads just as easily as satellites.  The three-stage rocket malfunctioned after the first stage exhausted its fuel and fell away, and the assembly plunged into the Yellow Sea without hitting land or striking any of the many vessels observing the test from international waters.

Ban said North Korea's actions were "deplorable," going against the "firm and unanimous stance of the international community." He also said such a test of a missile with possible military applications was a violation of U.N. resolutions.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jay Carney said North Korea's action was a threat to regional security, and a sign that Pyongyang prefers "wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry."

The U.S. has canceled plans to send additional food aid to North Korea, and considers that sanctions could be tightened even more if Pyongyang conducts "further provocative actions."



Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said the rocket appeared to have reached a height of 120 kilometers above the sea before it split apart.

"We have received information that there was some sort of object launched," said Tanaka. "It appears to have flown for over a minute and then fallen into the ocean. There has been absolutely no effect on our territory.''

South Korean naval vessels as well as U.S., Russian and Chinese ships are in the launch zone searching for rocket debris.

Many members of the international community spoke out against North Korea's operation, which apparently was timed to coincide with the birth centenary of the communist state's founder, Kim Il Sung.  The European Union, the Group of Eight industrialized nations, Russia, Germany and Britain agreed the rocket launch should not have taken place.  And North Korea's neighboring states South Korea, China and Japan all condemned the action.

The U.N. Security Council was meeting Friday to discuss the issue.

While the world reacted to the failed launch, North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un presided over a rally celebrating the lives of North Korea's two previous leaders: his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung. During the festivities in central Pyongyang he unveiled statues of both men and assumed new titles that complete the transfer of state, military, and party power from his dictator father to himself.

Military forces in South Korea and Japan remain on high alert for what they say could be more provocative actions by North Korea during the month of celebrations honoring Kim Il Sung.

U.S. officials have said Pyongyang might have been planning to follow the launch with what would be its third underground test of a nuclear warhead.  Satellite intelligence photographs made available to VOA and other news organizations this week show evidence of preparations for such a test.

North Korea's launch plan also has derailed a recent agreement with the U.S. under which Pyongyang agreed to suspend all of its nuclear-weapons and missile programs, in return for 240,000 tons of badly needed food aid.