North Korea rocket launch raises nuclear stakes

Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:56pm EST
 
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By Jack Kim and Mayumi Negishi

SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) - North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.

The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.

"The satellite has entered the planned orbit," a North Korean television news reader clad in traditional Korean garb announced, after which the station played patriotic songs with the lyrics "Chosun (Korea) does what it says".

The rocket was launched just before 10 a.m. (0100 GMT), according to defense officials in South Korea and Japan, and was more successful than a rocket launched in April that flew for less than two minutes.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint U.S.-Canadian military organization, said that the missile had "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit".

North Korea followed what it said was a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the U.N. Security Council to stiffen sanctions that it originally imposed in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test.

North Korea is banned from developing nuclear and missile-related technology under U.N. resolutions, although Kim Jong-un, the youthful head of state who took power a year ago, is believed to have continued the state's "military first" programs put in place by his late father, Kim Jong-il.

North Korea hailed the launch as celebrating the prowess of all three members of the Kim family to rule since it was founded in 1948.   Continued...

 
A screen shows a rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea's satellite control centre in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province, in this photo released by Kyodo December 12, 2012. North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents. REUTERS/Kyodo