North Korea's controversial launch of a new satellite-bearing rocket, which was seen as part of its preparation for a possible nuclear test, failed as the rocket broke apart before escaping the earth's atmosphere and fell into the sea on Friday, reports said.
The Unha-3 rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite blasted off from Sohae Launching Station in North Phyongan province at 07:39 a.m. (local time), but burst into about 20 pieces after flying about one or two minutes, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official told reporters.
The debris appeared to have fallen in waters off the Korean peninsula, near the Yellow Sea, causing no damage.
The South Korean military is scouring the area, which is within its exclusive economic zone, to recover the debris that scattered over a vast area about 150 kilometers off the west coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Shin Won-shik as saying at a briefing.
North Korea admitted failure of its satellite to enter the orbit. In a brief report, the official news agency KCNA said the "earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit," adding that "scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure."
Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said the launch had "no impact on Japanese territory." Tokyo had warned that it would shoot down the satellite if it violated Japanese air space.
Seoul strongly criticized the missile launch. Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan said "it is very unfortunate" that the North "have ignored the starvation of their people and spent money on missiles."
"Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," the White House said in a statement.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command said no debris fell on land, and that at no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat.
On Friday, Japan's lower house adopted a resolution denouncing North Korean rocket launch defying warnings from the international community.
The failure is a setback for Pyongyang, which had boasted that the launch, to mark the birth centenary of its founder-leader Kim Il-sung, will "offer an important occasion of putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage."
The plan had sparked widespread criticism, including from the United States, South Korea and the European Union, as it is seen as a disguised long-range ballistic missile test.
by RTT Staff Writer
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