North Korea launches rocket

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Despite international appeals, North Korea has gone ahead with a long publicised rocket launch. Authorities from the United States, Japan, and South Korea confirm that the rocket lifted off at 11.32 local time (02.32 GMT) on Sunday April 5, 2009.

"A short time ago a flying object appeared to have been launched from North Korea," read a statement by the Japanese government. The rocket seems to have passed over the Japanese capital of Tokyo and headed over the Pacific Ocean. Two parts of the rocket, the first and second stages, fell either side of the Japanese home islands, falling into the Sea of Japan and the Pacific.

A statement by the North Korean official news agency said that the rocket had successfully launched a satellite which is now broadcasting "data" and North Korean propaganda songs. A South Korean source told the South Korean Yonhap news agency that the rocket did appear to be carrying a satellite. The North Korean statement calls the rocket Unha-2 ("Galaxy-2") and the satellite Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 ("Lodestar 2").

However, the US Northern Command stated that the launch of the rocket failed, and that the payload and second stage have fallen into the Pacific Ocean.

President Obama of the United States condemned the launch as "provocative" and stated that "North Korea has ignored its international obligations...and further isolated itself from the community of nations." America, Japan and South Korea will discuss the launch at an emergency UN Security Council meeting at 15:00 EDT (1900 GMT).

Pyongyang's one ally, China, has called for "restraint" on all sides. Both China and fellow veto power Russia oppose further sanctions on North Korea.

Resolution 1718 enacted in the wake of a stated 2006 nuclear weapons test bans North Korea from missile development. North Korea claims that the rocket is a launch vehicle to orbit a satellite, however its neighbours suggest that this is simply a cover for a long-range missile test, a missile that could potentially hit Alaska and the West Coast of the United States.


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