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Wednesday 21 February 2018

UN condemns North Korea rocket launch

North Koreans watch an electronic screen announcing the launch of a satellite at the Pyongyang Railway Station (AP)
North Koreans watch an electronic screen announcing the launch of a satellite at the Pyongyang Railway Station (AP)

The UN deplored a rocket launch by North Korea warning it was in violation of Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang's use of ballistic missile technology.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the launch came despite the "united plea of the international community against such an act".

He urged N orth Korea to halt its provocative actions and return to compliance with its international obligations.

The Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Sunday on the rocket launch, at the request of the US and Japan.

The rocket was fired from North Korea's west coast and its path was tracked separately by the US, Japan and South Korea, with no damage from debris reported.

At an emergency national security council meeting in Seoul, the country's president called the firing an "intolerable provocation".

North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space programme, trumpeted the beauty of the launch's "fascinating vapour" as the rocket cut through the clear blue sky.

It said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after lift-off, and pledged more such launches.

A US official said it might take days to assess whether the launch was a success.

The firing came about two hours after an eight-day launch window opened on Sunday morning. It follows North Korea's widely disputed claim last month to have tested a hydrogen bomb.

Washington and its allies will consider it a further provocation and push for more tough sanctions.

North Korean rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the North's ultimate goal of a nuclear armed missile that could hit the US mainland.

North Korea under leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy meant to collapse his government.

Diplomats are also pushing to tighten UN sanctions because of the North's January 6 nuclear test.

The South Korean government could not confirm reports by Yonhap news agency and YTN TV that the rocket might have failed.

The US Strategic Command said it detected and tracked a missile launched on a southern trajectory but it did not pose a threat to the United States or its allies.

Japan's NHK broadcaster showed footage of an object visible in the skies from the southern island of Okinawa that was believed to be the rocket.

The global condemnation began immediately.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye called the launch an "intolerable provocation" and said the North's efforts to advance its missile capabilities were "all about maintaining the regime" in Pyongyang.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe vowed to "take action to totally protect the safety and well-being of our people".

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice called the North's missile and nuclear weapons programmes a "serious threat to our interests - including the security of some of our closest allies".

The foreign ministry in China, the North's only major ally, expressed "regret that, disregarding the opposition from the international community, the (North) side obstinately insisted in carrying out a launch by using ballistic missile technologies".

A senior South Korean Defence Ministry official, Yoo Jeh Seung, told reporters that Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the THADD missile defence system in South Korea.

China would see THAAD, which is one of the most advanced missile defence systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.

Mr Yoo said the talks on THAAD are aimed at bolstering South Korea-US defence in the face of escalating North Korean threats.

Press Association

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