Rocket launch may bring more isolation
Sanctions possible as U.N., U.S. condemn ‘provocative act.’
PYONGYANG, NOrth KOreA — In Pyongyang, North Koreans clinked beer mugs and danced in the streets to celebrate the country’s first satellite in space. In Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, leaders pushed for consequences for Wednesday’s successful rocket launch, widely seen as a test that takes the country one step closer to being capable of lobbing nuclear bombs over the Pacific.
The surprising, successful launch of a threestage rocket — similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nucleartipped warhead as far as California — raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea’s expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.
The U.N. Security Council, which has punished North Korea repeatedly for developing its nuclear program, condemned the launch after a closed-door meeting Wednesday and said it will urgently consider “an appropriate response.” The White House called the launch a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security,” and even the North’s most important ally, China, expressed regret.
In Pyongyang, however, pride about the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Korea, though struggling to feed its people, is now one of the few countries to have successfully launched a working satellite into space from its own soil; bitter rival South Korea is not on the list, though it has tried.
“It’s really good news,” North Korean citizen Jon Il Gwang said as he and scores of other Pyongyang residents poured into the streets after a noon announcement to celebrate the launch by dancing in the snow. “It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space.”
The North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed that “initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit.”
The launch could leave Pyongyang even more isolated and cut off from much-needed aid and trade.
The U.N. imposed two rounds of sanctions after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and ordered the North not to conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology.
The White House condemned what National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor called “yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior.”