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N. Korea praises rocket; others see covert missile test

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A vehicle carrying a PAC-3 missile interceptor arrives at a port on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa prefecture, southwestern Japan Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. North Korea has moved up the window of its planned long-range rocket launch to Feb. 7-14, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Saturday. The launch, which the North says is an effort to send a satellite into orbit, would be in defiance of repeated warnings by outside governments who suspect it is a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

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South Koreans watch a TV news program with a file footage about North Korea’s rocket launch plans, at Seoul Railway Station on Wednesday. The headline on the screen reads “North Korea plans to launch a missile.”

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A member of the Japan Self-Defense Forces stands near a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea’s rocket launch at Defense Ministry in Tokyo today.

SEOUL » For North Korea’s propaganda machine, the long-range rocket launch Sunday carved a glorious trail of “fascinating vapor” through the clear blue sky. For South Korea’s president, and other world leaders, it was a banned test of dangerous ballistic missile technology and yet another “intolerable provocation.”

The rocket launched from North Korea’s west coast only two hours after an eight-day launch window opened Sunday morning, its path tracked separately by the United States, Japan and South Korea. No damage from debris was reported.

North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space program, said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after liftoff. It vowed more such launches. A U.S. official said it might take days to assess whether the launch was a success.

The launch follows North Korea’s widely disputed claim last month to have tested a hydrogen bomb. Washington and its allies will consider the rocket launch a further provocation and push for more tough sanctions. The United States and Japan quickly requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday morning, saying Pyongyang violated a council ban on ballistic missile launches.

North Korean rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the North’s ultimate goal of a nuclear armed missile that could hit the U.S. mainland. North Korea under leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy meant to collapse Kim’s government. Diplomats are also pushing to tighten U.N. sanctions because of the North’s Jan. 6 nuclear test.

In a development that will worry both Pyongyang and Beijing, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official, Yoo Jeh Seung, told reporters that Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the THADD missile defense system in South Korea. North Korea has long decried the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and Beijing would see a South Korean deployment of THAAD, which is one of the world’s most advanced missile defense systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.

In a statement, North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, in typical propaganda-laden language, praised “the fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star.” Juche is a North Korean philosophy focusing on self-reliance; the Day of the Shining Star refers to the Feb. 16 birthday of former dictator Kim Jong Il. North Korea has previously staged rocket launches to mark important anniversaries.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said a South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer detected the North Korean launch at 9:31 a.m. The rocket’s first stage fell off North Korea’s west coast at 9:32 a.m. and the rocket disappeared from South Korean radars at 9:36 a.m. off the southwestern coast. There was no reported damage in South Korea.

The U.S. Strategic Command issued a statement saying it detected and tracked a missile launched on a southern trajectory but it did not pose a threat to the United States or its allies.

Japan’s NHK broadcaster showed footage of an object visible in the skies from the southern island of Okinawa that was believed to be the rocket. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency later backed away, without elaborating, from a report that said the rocket might have failed.

The global condemnation began almost immediately.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the launch an “intolerable provocation.” She said the North’s efforts to advance its missile capabilities were “all about maintaining the regime” in Pyongyang and criticized the North Korean leadership for ignoring the hardships of ordinary North Koreans.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to “take action to totally protect the safety and well-being of our people.” U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice called the North’s missile and nuclear weapons programs a “serious threats to our interests — including the security of some of our closest allies.”

The Foreign Ministry in China, the North’s only major ally and its protector in the U.N. Security Council, where Beijing wields veto power, expressed “regret that, disregarding the opposition from the international community, the (North) side obstinately insisted in carrying out a launch by using ballistic missile technologies.”

Kim Jong Un has overseen two of the North’s four nuclear tests and three long-range rocket launches since taking over after the death of his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. The U.N. Security Council prohibits North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity. Experts say that ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology.

“If North Korea has only nuclear weapons, that’s not that intimidating. If they have only rockets, that’s not that intimidating, either. But if they have both of them, that means they can attack any target on Earth. So it becomes a global issue,” said Kwon Sejin, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

North Korea in 2013 also did a nuclear test and then unnerved the international community by orchestrating an escalating campaign of bombast, including threats to fire nuclear missiles at the U.S. and Seoul.

North Korea has spent decades trying to develop operational nuclear weapons.

North Korea has said that plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex are in operation. The North is thought to have a small arsenal of crude atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles. But it has yet to demonstrate that it can produce nuclear bombs small enough to place on a missile, or missiles that can reliably deliver its bombs to faraway targets.

After several failures testing a multistage, long-range rocket, it put its first satellite into space with a long-range rocket launched in December 2012.

The North’s recent activity comes amid a long-standing diplomatic stalemate. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.


Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul; Yuri Kageyama and Eric Talmadge in Tokyo; Lolita Baldor in Washington; Louise Watt in Beijing, and Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

21 responses to “N. Korea praises rocket; others see covert missile test”

  1. MoiLee says:

    “Satellite Launch”? Yeah ,Right! Kim Jong Un must take the rest of the world as Fools.
    This “Test” ,is to test the missiles capabilities ,such as it’s Long Range capability.
    The North Koreans are STAGING this Missile launch to impress the IRANIANS.Their main customer for ICBM’s. IF successful? Iran will get them as well.
    Sounds crazy,but watch! IMUA!

  2. dontbelieveinmyths says:

    What’s the white house saying? What’s the white house saying? What’s the white house saying? What’s the white house saying? What’s the white house saying? Oh yeah, I know, “You better not do it or else….”

  3. saywhatyouthink says:

    They want to demonstrate to the world they have the capability to launch a nuke attack on Japan or the US. We should demonstrate our capability to shoot it down while they’re still in the testing phase of development, thereby likely avoiding the need to shoot down an actual nuclear warhead in the future. We should never have allowed such an unstable regime to obtain nuclear technology in the first place. Similar to Iran and probably most other Muslim nations,they’re just crazy enough to use them despite any consequence to themselves.

    • MoiLee says:

      Ball is in China’s court! The Ball to control North Korea is with China. The U.S. should just suspend all trade activities and U.S. manufacturing with China….Companies like Apple and Nike. Bring them Home!This is our “Ball “…..We can play this game too!

    • WizardOfMoa says:

      Yep, agree with shooting it down! No buts, if or what have you! Just do it and show the world we aren’t as placid as we look or sound!!

      • sailfish1 says:

        Big talk from a true crazy. If the U.S. starts shooting people they don’t like, what would you say when China and Russia starts shooting too?

        • WizardOfMoa says:

          We’re speaking about a nuke! As for your subject, believe other people are already shooting at us via in the name of Allah in the countries our soldiers are defending!

    • scuddrunner says:

      saywhat, attacking the US? That would be Hawaii, not the mainland. N.Korea is working on a guidance system for their missiles.

    • sailfish1 says:

      So now you and the U.S. are again “guardians of the world”? U.S., China, Russia, UK, France,South Korea, Japan, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, and so many other countries have tested missiles and launched satellites. While you think North Korea and Iran are “unstable” regimes, the U.S. has just abandoned sanctions against Iran and have given them back multi-billions of dollars. Has North Korea or Iran attacked the U.S. or made terrorist strikes against anyone? NO! If you hate your neighbor and he is buying guns, you cannot do anything legal against him until he actually attacks you. You need to cool it, bro!

      • oxtail01 says:

        A sane voice in the sea of lunatics. Yup, only US and allies (preferably white faced)can shoot off missiles and kill, like how only US had the right to set off the “bomb” in the biggest act of mass genocide in world history. Come on all you righteous cry babies. Let the fat kid play with his toys. If he gets naughty, US has the opportunity to have another biggest act of mass genocide in world history.

        • saywhatyouthink says:

          The point is NK’s leader is crazy enough to use his so called “toys” despite the fact that it would almost certainly result in the end of his regime and life (consequence). Therefore, we probably should never have allowed them to obtain it in the first place. Shooting down his ballistic missle would send the same message he’s sending us now.

        • saywhatyouthink says:

          Perhaps you’re unaware but Truman’s decision to drop the nukes actually saved lives by forcing a surrender. Had an invasion of Japan been necessary, there would likely have been many more dead than the 150.000 that died in the bombings.
          It was not the biggest act of mass genocide either, Hitler literally killed Millions of people before he was stopped by the allied powers.

  4. FARKWARD says:

    How can this be deemed/termed “covert” when it’s right in your face. I’m going to Borders and buying all the S/A Staff DICTIONARIES…

  5. Iuki says:

    This is hugely worrisome. This country is crazy. It builds and launches missiles when its people are starving. China won’t do anything, because they don’t want all those crazy people coming over onto their land.

    • oxtail01 says:

      US has thousand times more missiles of more deadly quality than this tiny hermit kingdom will ever have. Does that make us thousand times more crazy?

    • saywhatyouthink says:

      China supports NK because they don’t want the 30,000 US troops in SK on their border. NK serves as a buffer, that’s why China hasn’t allowed the NK regime to collapse.

  6. wn says:

    Kim Jong Un continues to behave as though his diplomacy (or lack of) is some sort of video game with no serious consequence. While working with the DOD (during the reign of Kim Jong Il) and covering facilities in Okinawa, Japan and S. Korea you had a high sense of alert amongst those in the know. I am not confident that the general population of N. Korea can be influenced to stand up to Kim Jong Un…too many years of insulation and brainwashing…it’s frightening. Don’t believe China will step in…but will need to…they do provide aid to N. Korea. Need to have this situation remedied before it gets out of control…

  7. bakatade says:

    He needs another Interview.

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