Defiant North Korea launches a space rocket

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North Korea has declared the successful firing of a long-range rocket and flouted international condemnation of the launch by promising “many more”.

In defiance of international warnings, North Korea fired the rocket on Sunday morning in what it said was a mission under the direct orders of lead Kim Jong-un to put an Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-4, into orbit.

But the United Nations deplored Pyongyang’s move, widely seen as part of its program to develop intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles (ICBMs).

North Korea beamed a special announcement live on state-run television claiming the launch as a success, and trumpeted the beauty of the “fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky”.

It came just weeks after Pyongyang’s widely-disputed claim that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, and is the latest evidence of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s willingness to ignore international pressure as tensions on the Korean Peninsula heighten.

Washington has persistently called on Beijing, a key trade partner on which Pyongyang relies heavily, to do more to rein in its neighbor. But China has resisted calls to leverage its economic relationship with North Korea, fearing it would back an already volatile Kim Jong-un further into a corner.

“China expresses regret that North Korea, in spite of the pervasive opposition of the international community, insisted on using ballistic missile technology to carry out a launch,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

North Korea sees its rocket and nuclear tests as crucial steps toward its ultimate goal of achieving a nuclear-armed long-range missile arsenal – necessary, it says, to defend itself against what it describes as decades of US hostility, and part of Kim Jong-un’s “byungjin” policy of developing North Korea’s nuclear program and economy simultaneously.

Pyongyang had initially told UN agencies it planned to launch its rocket sometime between February 8 and 25, before bringing the window forward to between February 7 and 14 on Saturday. It launched two hours into the revised window.

This is the sixth long-range missile test by the North in its program to develop nuclear-loaded ICBMs. It is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs as well as an array of medium-range missiles but has yet to demonstrate the capability to produce nuclear warheads small enough to attach on a missile.


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