Skip to main content

North Korea carries out controversial rocket launch

By Jethro Mullen and Paul Armstrong, CNN
December 12, 2012 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: NORAD says the rocket appears to have put an object into orbit
  • NEW: The launch is "a highly provocative act," the U.S. government says
  • It comes as a surprise after North Korea had extended the launch window
  • U.S., South Korea say the rocket launch is a cover for testing ballistic missile technology

Read a version of this story in Arabic / Read a version of this article in Spanish

Hong Kong (CNN) -- North Korea surprised and angered the international community Wednesday by launching a long-range rocket that may have put an object in orbit.

The secretive North Korean regime said the rocket had successfully blasted off from a space center on its west coast and claimed the satellite it was carrying had entered its intended orbit. The launch followed a botched attempt in April and came just days after Pyongyang suggested it could be delayed.

Initial indications suggest the rocket "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit," the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the joint U.S.-Canadian aerospace agency, said in a statement.

North Korea has previously claimed that two other rockets fired in the past 15 years had successfully launched satellites, but other countries say they fell into the ocean before completing the task.

What is a successful rocket launch?
Rocket launch boosts North Korea
North Korea announces rocket launch

Read: Why launch the rocket now?

Many nations, such as the United States and South Korea, consider the launch to be a cover for testing ballistic missile technology. The nuclear-armed North has insisted its aim was to place a scientific satellite in space.

Countries around the world quickly condemned Pyongyang's move on Wednesday, saying it breached U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The South Korean government said the launch was confrontational and a "threat to the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the world."

The United States called it "a highly provocative act" that is "yet another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behavior."

Washington will work with other countries -- including China, Russia and other Security Council members -- "to pursue appropriate action," said Tommy Vietor, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman.

The launch came as a surprise to the United States, which did not expect it to take place Wednesday, a senior U.S. official said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he deplored the fact that North Korea "has chosen to prioritize this launch over improving the livelihood of its people."

Read: Launch driven by political pressures

Neighboring countries said the rocket had taken off Wednesday morning and flown south over the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Japan releases N. Korean rocket info
Japan: Missile launch is intolerable
Rocket will provoke 'significant' action

The Japanese government said it believed one part of the rocket came down in the sea off the Korean Peninsula, a second part dropped into the East China Sea and a third fell into waters near the Philippines.

Read more: What does North Korea's planned rocket launch mean?

"It is extremely regrettable that North Korea forced the launch despite our protest," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a news conference in Tokyo. "It is not acceptable, and we strongly protest against it."

South Korea's semi-official news agency Yonhap reported that President Lee Myung-bak has convened an emergency security meeting in Seoul.

A launch had seemed unlikely to take place so soon after North Korea announced Monday that it was extending the launch window into late December, citing technical issues in an engine.

Previous launch attempts by the North in 1998, 2006, 2009 and April this year failed to achieve their stated goal of putting a satellite into orbit and provoked international condemnation.

Pyongyang had said this rocket launch would be "true to the behests" of Kim Jong Il, the late North Korean leader and father of Kim Jong Un, head of the ruling regime.

Kim Jong Il died on December 17 last year, so the first anniversary of his death falls within the launch window that North Korea has announced.

Experts had also speculated that Pyongyang wanted this launch to happen before the end of 2012, the year that marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of Kim Jong Un.

CNN's Jethro Mullen and Paul Armstrong in Hong Kong reported and wrote. CNN's K.J. Kwon in Seoul, Junko Ogura in Tokyo, and Elise Labott, Barbara Starr and Jessica Yellin in Washington contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait and hope.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 2338 GMT (0738 HKT)
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
iReporter Kenny Zhu visited North Korea in April and was able to take video footage and photos with his Google Glass during the trip.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 1842 GMT (0242 HKT)
North Korea loves saber-rattling. Here's a look at all the firepower they have stockpiled.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
CNN's Elise Labott reports on the new baby pictures of Kim Jong Un released by North Korean state media.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
ADVERTISEMENT