USA TODAY US Edition
N. Korea’s long-range rocket launch ends quickly in failure
USA calls it a threat to region
U.S., South Korea say launch was a cover to test missile technology; North says it carried satellite. Washington suspends food aid plans.
PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea’s much-anticipated rocket launch ended quickly in failure early today, splintering into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff.
North Korea acknowledged in a broadcast on state TV that a satellite launched hours earlier from the west coast failed to enter into orbit. The U.S. and South Korea also declared the launch a failure.
The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was fired at 7:38 a.m., but failed to reach orbit, the staterun Korean Central News Agency said.
“Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure,” KCNA said.
In response to the launch, Washington announced it was suspending plans to contribute food aid to the North in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programs.
The White House said North Korea’s failed missile launch is a “provocative action” that “threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments.”
“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
The U.N. Security Council is to meet this morning to discuss the North Korean action.
The rocket launch had proceeded despite protests from the U.S., South Korea and other countries that had called the launch a cover for a test of missile technology.
North Korea said the rocket was part of a peaceful effort to send a satellite into space.
The rocket exploded in midair one or two minutes after launching, said Maj. Gen. Shin Won-sik, a South Korean Defense Ministry official.
The U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command said officials detected and tracked the launch over the Yellow Sea. The first stage fell into the sea 100 miles west of Seoul, while stages two and three failed. “At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat,” NORAD said.
North Korea had touted the rocket as a major technological achievement to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on Sunday.
“It blows a big hole in the birthday party,” said Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the U.S. National Security Council in Washington. “It’s terribly embarrassing for the North.”