North Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by ABC News No Comments

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea has successfully launched a long-range rocket and appears to have put “an object” into orbit, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) officials said on Tuesday.

NORAD officials said U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. ET.

The first stage appeared to fall into the Yellow Sea and the second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea, the officials said.

Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit, NORAD said.  At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.

North Korea insists the launch of the long-range Unha-3 rocket is simply part of a peaceful space program, but the U.S. and key Asian allies believe it is a disguised attempt to test a long range ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead and one day, with development, reach the United States.

North Korean state media called the rocket launch a “glorious success” and a “landmark accomplishment” for the country.

It is the country’s fifth attempt to launch a long-range missile, and by far its most successful.

In lanuches in 1998 and 2009, they succeeded in separating the second stage.  In 2006 and in April 2012, both launch attempts failed only minutes after liftoff.

A South Korean military official confirmed that one of their three warships equipped with Aegis radar system detected the launch.  The first stage fell just below Byunsan, southwest of the Korean peninsula, exactly where it was supposed to, according to the official.

Japanese chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said the launch occurred at 9:49 a.m. and the rocket passed over Okinawa at 10:01 am.

“This launch is a highly provocative act in terms of security and undermines the peace and stability of the region, including Japan,” Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said at a press conference.  “Japan cannot tolerate the launch, and has lodged a serious protest with North Korea.”

China, North Korea’s only major remaining ally, has “expressed regret” in the rocket launch.

The North Korean regime had been saying it would launch the rocket, but over the weekend announced plans of a possible delay due to “unspecified reasons.”

Official state media blamed the delay on a technical glitch.  A statement from the Korean Committee of Space Technology claimed on Monday that scientists and technicians “found a technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket carrying the satellite.”  Satellite images also revealed that a new third-stage booster was delivered to the launch pad on Saturday.

The United States has mobilized four warships in the Asia-Pacific region to monitor and possibly shoot down the launch.  The guided missile destroyer the USS John S. McCain and the guided missile cruiser the USS Shiloh join the USS Benfold and USS Fitzgerald, also guided missile destroyers, to “reassure allies in the region” according to officials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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