World condemns North Korea after successful missile test
Long-range missile puts satellite into orbit, but tests could be part of nuclear programme
NORTH KOREA faces widespread international condemnation today after it launched a long-range missile and claimed it had successfully put a satellite into orbit.
The launch went ahead in contravention of a ban on ballistic missile tests and drew criticism from the United Nations, US, Japan, UK and even its closest ally China.
US missile warning systems detected the rocket after it was launched from a base in western North Korea at 9.49am local time. It flew over the Japanese island of Okinawa, before falling into waters off the Philippines. The US later confirmed that an object had been put into space.
News of the launch was hailed in North Korea by what The Guardian described as "a triumphalist TV announcement accompanied by stirring string music and images of a snow-covered landscape".
However, claims that the launch is part of a "peaceful satellite" programme have been given short shrift.
"Military analysts in Japan, South Korea and the United States have long believed that North Korea’s rocket tests conceal a more sinister experiment: perfecting a missile that could ultimately deliver a nuclear warhead as far afield as America’s west coast," said The Times.
The launch was the second since North Korea's new leader Kim Jung-un took over the country and came days before the first anniversary of the death of his father Kim Jung-il. It has also thrown South Korea into turmoil a week before elections.
Lucy Williams of the BBC said the success of the launch came as a surprise, especially after the failure of the last effort in April. "This is the first time that North Korea's claims of success have been backed by key international observers," she noted. "But the technical success of the launch is about the only thing that Pyongyang and Washington agree on."
A spokesman for UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon called the launch a "clear violation" of UN regulations and "deplored" the action.
The US described it as a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security". Japan said it would not "tolerate" North Korea's actions and South Korea said its neighbour "should bear grave responsibility" for the launch.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would summon the North Korean ambassador to explain himself.
China tried to cool tempers, but also criticised North Korea for failing to abide by UN resolutions. "Under the highly-charged circumstances of the moment, all parties concerned should stay cool-headed and refrain from stoking the flames so as to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control," it said.