North Korean embarrassment as rocket launch fails


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The Independent Online

The much-anticipated North Korean rocket launch that had threatened to cause a further deterioration in the relationship between the reclusive communist state and its neighbours today ended in failure.

The rocket suffered a catastrophic structural failure about a minute after launch and plummeted into the Yellow Sea.

North Korea announced on state TV that a satellite launched hours earlier had failed to enter orbit.

The US and South Korea also confirmed that the launch was a failure. 

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri at 7.38am (11.38pm Thursday BST) but failed to reach orbit, the Korean Central News Agency said.

“Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure,” KCNA said.

The failure to launch the rocket will come as an embarrassment for the communist regime, which was seeking to reinforce the legitimacy of the new leader of North Korea, 28-year-old Kim Jung-on, who took over the role from his father Kim Jong-il, in December.

Whilst North Korea have insisted that the aim of the launch was to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the nation Kim Il-sung, by launching a civilian satellite, many claim the launch was to test banned long-range missile technology.

The White House, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon both condemned the launch, calling it deplorable - despite its failure.

The UN Security Council is set to meet to discuss the launch later, and China have called for calm in the Korean peninsula.

The US, Japan, Britain and other nations had been urging North Korea to cancel a launch.

The foreign ministers of the G8 nations also condemned the launch as they met in Washington.

Greg Thielmann, a former intelligence officer with the US State Department, said it appears the North Koreans have not mastered the technology they need to control multi-stage rockets - a key capability if the North is to threaten the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang is holding a week of events ahead of celebrations to mark Kim Il-sung's birthday on Sunday.

Statues of former leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were also unveiled at a lavish ceremony in Pyongyang.