Failure to launch – but Pyongyang pays price for rocket test

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

US food-aid deal collapses following claims that North Korea was testing a long-range missile

Seoul

The US announced yesterday that it will not deliver on its promise to provide food aid to North Korea after the failed launch of its long-range rocket, which plunged into the sea just over a minute after take-off late on Thursday.

The US and its allies had accused North Korea of attempting to launch a long-range missile, though North Korea maintains that the rocket had been carrying a satellite intended for weather monitoring.

"Their efforts to launch a missile clearly demonstrates that they could not be trusted to keep their commitments," Ben Rhodes, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said yesterday. "Therefore, we are not going forward with an agreement to provide them with any assistance."

In February, Washington promised 240,000 tons of food packages to North Korea, where an estimated one-third of children are thought to suffer from severe malnutrition, in return for the nation's pledge to cease its nuclear programme.

An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council was convened yesterday in the wake of the failed launch. A brief statement afterwards said members had agreed to continue consultations "on an appropriate response" to the launch "in accordance with its responsibilities given the urgency of the matter".

In an unusual step, North Korea admitted the "failure" of the satellite "to enter preset orbit" yesterday. A woman clad in traditional Korean hanbok dress announced the failure on state TV, saying that "scientists, engineers and experts" were seeking the causes but she did not elaborate.

The announcement came four hours after word had already spread around the world. Angus Walker, China correspondent for ITV News, who was in Pyongyang to cover the rocket launch, tweeted yesterday: "Gone midnight in the press centre set up for the rocket launch in North Korea and no official has spoken to reporters to explain failure".

The failure comes as a huge embarrassment for North Korea during the build-up for large-scale celebrations on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

In the face of the public-relations disaster, focus was swiftly shifted away from the launch to the nation's new leader Kim Jong-un, who took power after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, last year. Hours afterwards, he was named First Chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission – the latest in a string of titles apparently designed to help strengthen his position. Foreign journalists were taken to a ceremony for the unveiling of statues of Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il. New "Supreme Commander" Kim Jong-un was at the centre of leaders ranged in front of the statues, facing several thousand cheering people.

It was thought yesterday that North Korea would remain defiant, even as the United Nations Security Council convened.

South Korean Deputy Defence Minister Lim Kwan-bin told parliament that chances are "very high" that North Korea will carry out another provocative move to improve domestic support.

The Unha-3 rocket lifted off at 7.40 local time (22:40 GMT on Thursday) from a specially prepared launch site in Cholsan County, on the country's western coast, according to South Korean and US monitors. It disintegrated after only a couple of minutes.

A South Korean defence official said the rocket had been on a trajectory that would have taken it over or near the southernmost Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa and past the northern Philippines before landing in the South Pacific.

South Korean sources said the rocket fell into the sea about 140 miles west of Kunsan, a major port on the southwest South Korean coast. Two South Korean destroyers equipped with the latest Aegis radar and ship-to-air missile systems were already patrolling the waters, ready to fire at portions of the rocket if it appeared they might land on South Korean territory.

The destroyers, along with smaller craft and helicopters, churned the waters looking for debris from the rocket, believed to have broken up at the critical first stage of separation after launch.

Kim Tae-woo, a defence analyst and president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said he believes North Korea is committed to developing missiles and nuclear weapons partly to prove the power of Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be under the control of a clique of generals and relatives. The crash has fuelled fears North Korea may conduct its third underground nuclear test in the near future. "What they are concerned about is not to improve the quality of life of their people, but to consolidate behind Kim Jong-un," he said.

The US, South Korea and Japan all denounced the launch as a violation of UN sanctions.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat