News / Asia

Defiant North Korea Carries Out 'Space Launch'

South Koreans watch a television report on North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul railway station in Seoul, December 12, 2012.
South Koreans watch a television report on North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul railway station in Seoul, December 12, 2012.
North Korea has carried out what it characterizes as a “groundbreaking” peaceful launch to place a weather satellite into orbit, despite warnings from the United Nations and the United States. The event is being viewed by most of the world as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Seoul, Tokyo, Washington and the United Nations quickly condemned the Wednesday morning launch.

Leaders in Japan and South Korea convened emergency national security meetings.

Key dates in North Korea's nuclear and missile program:

  • August 1998: Test fires Taepodong-1, its first long-range rocket, over Japan as part of failed "satellite launch."
  • September 1999: Pledges to freeze long-range missile tests amid improving ties with U.S.
  • March, 2005: Ends moratorium on missile tests, blames "hostile" policy of U.S.
  • July 5, 2006: Test fires seven ballistic missiles, including long-range Taepodong-2, which fails less than a minute after launch.
  • July 15, 2006: U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1695, demanding Pyongyang halt missile program.
  • October 9, 2006: Conducts first underground nuclear test
  • October 15, 2006: U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1718 demanding halt to missile and nuclear tests, banning sale of weapons
  • April 5, 2009: Launches long-range rocket that lands in Pacific. Claims success, but U.S. says no satellite placed in orbit.
  • April 13, 2009: U.N. Security Council condemns launch, tightens sanctions. Pyongyang quits six-party nuclear talks.
  • May 2009: Conducts second underground nuclear test.
  • June 2009: Security Council passes Resolution 1874, imposing tougher sanctions.
  • February 2012: Announces moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile programs in exchange for U.S. food aid.
  • April 2012: Launches long-range rocket, which falls apart shortly after lift-off. Acknowledges failure.
South Korea's foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, criticized Pyongyang for ignoring repeated warnings and requests to cancel the launch.

The foreign minister says this action will further isolate North Korea from the international community and the country should instead use the immense financial resources spent on nuclear and missile development “to solve the desperate lives of its people.”

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called the North Korean launch totally unacceptable and regrettable.

Noda says he urges the public to stay calm and assures the Japanese people there will be a stern response by his government, in cooperation with the international community.

Japanese officials say none of their anti-missile batteries, which had been deployed in anticipation of the launch, fired at the North Korean rocket and no debris fell on Japan.

A statement from the U.S. National Security Council says “given this current threat to regional security, the United States will strengthen and increase” its close coordination with its allies and partners.

Related - US Condemns N. Korean Rocket Launch
The North American Aerospace Defense Command says “initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit.”

North Korea, in a special noon-time television broadcast, hailed the success of the launch from the Sohae Space Center.

The announcer, appearing in a pink hanbok traditional dress, says the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was placed into orbit after being shot into space on the Unha-3 rocket.

Trajectory paths of the UNHA-2 and UNHA-3 rockets near North Korea (CLICK TO ENLARGE)Trajectory paths of the UNHA-2 and UNHA-3 rockets near North Korea (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Trajectory paths of the UNHA-2 and UNHA-3 rockets near North Korea (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Trajectory paths of the UNHA-2 and UNHA-3 rockets near North Korea (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
North Korea's news agency later gave further details, saying the satellite, orbiting between 500 and 584 kilometers above the Earth, helps mark the 100th birth anniversary of the country's founding leader, Kim Il Sung.

North Korea is prohibited under previous U.N. resolutions from carrying out such launches as the technology can be used for ballistic missiles.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement, called the launch a clear violation of those resolutions and said he is concerned this provocation will have negative consequences for “peace and stability in the region.”

The United Nations Security Council convenes Wednesday to discuss the launch.

Related - China Appeals for Calm After N. Korean Rocket Launch

North Korea is believed to have several nuclear weapons and there is concern in the international community that its space technology will allow it to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that could carry a nuclear weapon.

Even if North Korea never gets that far, aerospace researcher Charles Vick,  the senior technical analyst for Global, says the isolated and impoverished country is now in the exclusive league of nations that have successfully conducted their own space launches.

“The Unha 3 launch vehicle certainly introduces them into the club, and it also at the same time represents a major issue of technology transfer and what is it actually going to be utilized in the long-run? So far this mission was for a scientific technology kind of demonstration, now let's see what follows,” he said.

And North Korea has achieved something its rival and vastly more affluent neighbor has failed to accomplish. South Korea, with some Russian technology, tried to launch a satellite from its own soil in 2009 and 2010. But both attempts were failures. Another try was made in November but was aborted just minutes before the scheduled lift-off due to a malfunction.

The next South Korean launch attempt is not expected until next year.

Youmi Kim in the VOA Seoul bureau contributed to this report. 

  • Youths play instruments in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater to celebrate the rocket launch, Pyongyang, North Korea, December 12, 2012.
  • Youths dance in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 12, 2012.
  • A North Korean dances to music in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater, December 12, 2012.
  • South Korean religious leaders raise placards and shout slogans during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
  • South Korean protesters burn a mock rocket as police officers spray fire extinguishers during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
  • A South Korean protester shouts slogans during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
  • South Korean man uses his smartphone to take a photo of television screen reporting news about North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 12, 2012.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anderson from: United States
December 12, 2012 11:12 PM
North Korea is the worst country on the planet. By far. And nobody should be scared of them. They will just end up blowing themselves up with their Stevie Wonder guidance systems. You know some other country has to be helping them. No country ever goes from foundation to building houses to space launch, Then finally get to providing enough food for the country.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 12, 2012 3:12 PM
This N Korean demonstration will set a new defensive arms race in Asia. More importantly, it changes the equation in the Middle East; for all intensive purposes Iran,one of the biggest customers of N Korean missile technology, now has an inter-continental launch capability available off the shelf.
No question that this new demonstrated capability of N Korea, will increase difficulties in arms control treaties and complicate future negotiations wrt NK arms proliferation.

by: Mpo from: Africa
December 12, 2012 11:19 AM
It is nice to read that North korea doesn't submit to bullies and hegemonic nations.

by: mhee from: Philippines
December 12, 2012 7:38 AM

by: Abhishek from: India
December 12, 2012 2:56 AM
Every country has right to make advances to achieve perfection in science and technology. North Korea launched a satellite and not a WMD. However what went wrong is that the same was done by misleading the world. Yesterday itself, it was announced by NK that the launch will be postponed upto 28-29 December but instead launched it under a complete shroud of mystery.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 11, 2012 11:45 PM
west just keep lying as usual. North Korea successfully launched a satellite which can be easily observed with normal radar or telescope. Father more, this satellite is broadcasting two songs. I believe most of people can receive the songs if they know the frequency. US keep lying like it did in Iraq about the WMD.
Funny, south Korea failed their launch however the North Korea counterpart succeed.
In Response

by: Kenelm from: China
December 12, 2012 7:35 AM
First of all, I take a pride in North Korea people, they have proved that North Korea people are honorable and outstanding nation by their action compared with some other country. However, we should know that north korea has a such deep and serious economic problem that a majority of north korea people dont have adequate or ample food and clothing, in my opinion, north korea should pay more attention on these instead of nuclear weapon or satellite. Of course ,we cant deny the north korea people's great achievement at the same time. Finely, best wishes to lovely and honored north korea people and all of the people who love peace in the world.
In Response

by: DT from: United States
December 12, 2012 3:57 AM
Granted, Iraq was absolute BS and much of my country was angry about it, there isn't much reason to lie about this. I am not saying it's the truth, but I do believe the worry is warranted.

Key difference was that there was something to gain by manipulating the US into sending troops into Iraq. Oil. The government at the time was run by friends of the oil companies, not by the votes of the people of the United States.

There is nothing worth forcibly taking from North Korea, no offense to NK and the DPRK. I mean as far as natural or produced resources.

If it truly was a satellite launch, nothing more, then congrats on the success, but the resources could've done more to aid the country's people. $1.3 billion in total for their rocket program is a lot of food and other resources, which the people need. I believe strongly in the power of Communism, when led by the right people to uphold the general population and this is not following those ideals.

Their isolated attitude causes distrust, though. I think they need to be more open with the rest of the world. We're no longer separate territories with days of travel inbetween, or the need to rely on stock-piling local resources. We're in an age of world trade, support those who support others. North Korea should become a part of this.

by: Igor from: Russia
December 11, 2012 10:07 PM
North Korea has every right to lauch any rocket carrying satelites into orbits. The so-called " a disguised ballistic missile" has no proof. We are so fed up with the double standard used by the West.
When Vietnam liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, the regime which genocided 3 million cambodians. Instead of helping Cambodian people, the West denounced Vietnam, supported the Khmer Rouge and helped to maintain its seat in the UN until 1993.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 12, 2012 1:38 AM
Yes, I agree with you. It's a desparate announcement of the west, "the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."
In Response

by: Tran Tan Dung from: Hong Kong
December 11, 2012 11:11 PM
What's rights when UN even your dictator leaders in Russia too imposed not to allow North Korea launch any test? Ignor, you seem too ignorant on Cambodian facts. No one doubted about the invasion led by the Hanoi expansionist on Cambodian land even today. In your comments, your brain has been washed up by hate, dictatorial and communist ideology of old-fashioned regime. By your words told us that you are one of the suppressors that still remained in Russia, China, Hanoi and the brainless North Korean regime. All these only enjoy stamping on people rights.

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