Sunday, April 05, 2009

NKorea launches rocket, defying world pressure

By JEAN H. LEE and JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writers SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired a rocket over Japan on Sunday, defying Washington, Tokyo and others who suspect the launch was cover for a test of its long-range missile technology. President Barack Obama warned the move would further isolate the communist nation. Liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea, the South Korean and U.S. governments said. The multistage rocket hurtled toward the Pacific, reaching Japanese airspace within seven minutes, but no debris appeared to hit its territory, officials in Tokyo said. Four hours after the launch, North Korea declared it a success. An experimental communications satellite reached outer space in just over nine minutes and is orbiting, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang. "The satellite is transmitting the melodies 'Song of Gen. Kim Il Sung' and 'Song of Gen. Kim Jong Il' as well as measurement data back to Earth," it said, referring to the country's late founder and his son, its current leader. Sunday's move was a bold act of defiance against Obama, Japanese leader Taro Aso, Hu Jintao of China and others who pressed Pyongyang in the days leading up to liftoff to cancel a launch they said would threaten peace and stability in Northeast Asia. The U.N. Security Council approved an emergency session for Sunday afternoon in New York, following a request from Japan that came just minutes after the launch. "North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint and further isolated itself from the community of nations," Obama said in Prague, urging Pyongyang to honor the U.N. resolutions and to refrain from further "provocative" actions. China, Pyongyang's biggest source of economic aid and diplomatic support, urged all sides to maintain calm and exercise restraint. It offered to play a "constructive role," though some fear it could use its veto power to block a unified response to the launch at the Security Council. North Korea says the launch of the "Kwangmyongsong-2" satellite was a peaceful bid to develop its space program. But the U.S., South Korea, Japan and others suspect the launch was a guise for testing the regime's long-range missile technology — a worrying step toward eventually mounting a nuclear weapon on a missile capable of reaching Alaska and beyond. [Continue reading]
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