North Korea rocket launch draws international condemnation

‘Highly provocative act that threatens regional security’

In this monitor screen image taken by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service, the Unha-3 rocket lifts off from a launch site on Dec. 12, 2012. (Korea News Service/AP)

The news that North Korea has fired a rocket into space, and has maybe even launched a rudimentary satallite, is being met with condemnation from around the world Wednesday morning.

North Korea launched the rocket around 10 a.m. Wednesday, (1:00 a.m. GMT) and reports said pieces of it landed in the water 300 kilometres off the Philippines coast.

“The satellite has entered the planned orbit,” said a North Korean television news reader after the launch. NORAD later confirmed that Korea had “deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit,” reports Reuters.

The surprise rocket launch came just days before the one-year anniversary of dictator Kim Jong Un’s rise to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

While the rocket launch is an attempt by Kim to prove his might, and to shore up support among the North Korean people, there is an even more concerning aspect. “Experts said that the same technology it takes to put a 100kg satellite into orbit could be the first step towards firing an inter-continental ballistic missile with an equivalent payload at America, provided the re-entry expertise and accuracy were good enough,” writes The Economist.

The launch comes just before South Korea holds elections on Dec. 19 and ahead of a Japanese election, as well.

With high stakes on all accounts, condemnation of the launch was fast, particularly since UN resolutions ban North Korea from developing nuclear and missile-related technology.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told CBC News: “It’s just a real step backwards and one that should cause us all real concern. Anyone who had hoped that the new president would change course from his father is going to be very disappointed.”

In the United States, a statement from the White House said the launch was: “a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, contravenes North Korea’s international obligations, and undermines the global nonproliferation regime.”

And the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “clear violation” of the UN resolution, reports BBC News.

Even China, which is usually a North Korean ally, spoke out against the launch. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, however, said that any action on the part of the UN Security Council: “should be prudent and moderate and conducive to maintaining stability and avoiding escalation of the situation,” reports The Guardian.

This rocket launch was more successful than a failed attempt in April, when a North Korean rocket flew for only a short time before breaking apart and falling into the waters offshore.

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