Update (1400 EST): Reactions to the rocket continue to emerge. Donald Kirk wrote for the South China Morning Post that he believes the rocket was necessary for Kim Jong Un to overcome any potential power struggles. Furthermore, Kirk writes that North Korea is deperate for engagement, and this is a good chance for dialogue and aid in order to encourage opening.
Elsewhere, Kazakhstan announced they “regret” North Korea’s launch and called for a return to the six party talks. Germany has filed an official complaint through their ambassador in Pyongyang and stated it was a “deliberate provocation” and “irresponsible”.
Finally, Japanese Prime Minister Noda has announced it will issue a “tough response” but did not state the nature of this response.
UPDATE (1220 EST): The video of the rocket being launched as taken from inside the command center:
[youtube id="xvFnYbJC_fo" width="620" height="360"]
UPDATE (1145 EST): The meeting of the U.N. Security Council is now underway. The French U.N. Ambassador has called for “a strong reaction by the council”, but added “we have to see what our friends want”. Expected sanctions include banning specific officials from travelling, tighter cargo inspections and further freezing of North Korea assets. As China and Russia have the powers to veto any resolution it is uncertain as to what will be passed. A resolution is expected in the next couple of days.
UPDATE (1120 EST): NK NEWS has latest analysis from missile expert Dr. Andrew Futter. While progress towards long-range missile capability has been demonstrated, several key challenges remain. Click here for more.
UPDATE (0920 EST): Chinese video recorded from a nearby coastal town captures North Korea’s rocket launch. That it was visible from so far away shows the high luminosity of the engines:
UPDATE(0823 EST): Iran congratulates North Korea on Wednesday for its “successful” launch of a long-range rocket and denied having a role in preparing the launch. Iran’s armed forces deputy chief, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, told the Fars news agency that Tehran “congratulates the people and the government” of North Korea on “the successful launching of the satellite-carrying rocket,”
“Dominant powers, like the United States, cannot halt the progress of independent states, who through resistance can quickly tread the path of scientific and technological self-reliance,” he added.
UPDATE (0710 EST): Reacting to the news, South Korean nationals expressed regret about the launch. One civic group was especially upset by his nation’s incapability at predicting the time of the launch, ” (I) do not understand how the (South Korean) intelligence agency, which puts so much effort into collecting the local information, did not predict the launch.” Another comment translated by Yonhap added, ”Did the (North) repair the rocket in just one day? I thought I read newspaper articles that the launch was scheduled for the end of this month”. ”The government apparently has not monitored the situation properly,” another Twitter user said, rebuking the launch as “provocative.”
In striking contrast, photos have emerged from North Korea of people dancing in the streets of Pyongyang to celebrate the launch. The mood on KCNA appears ecstatic, with a press release confirming the link between Kim Jong Il’s dying wishes and the launch:
Scientists and technicians of the DPRK successfully launched the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 into its orbit by carrier rocket Unha-3, true to the last instructions of leader Kim Jong Il. The successful launch of the satellite is a proud fruition of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy of attaching importance to the science and technology.
UPDATE (0445 EST): South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan condemns the rocket launch, citing it as a flagrant violation of UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874. Warning of punishment to North Korea for ignoring the international community’s “repeated warnings and calls for its withdrawal of the launch”, Kim added, “The ROK Government once again urges North Korea to use its enormous amount of resources to enhance the livelihood of its people, rather than waste them in developing nuclear weapons and missiles.”
UPDATE (0245 EST): Prof. Stephan Haggard has some initial thoughts on the launch over at the North Korea: Witness to Transformation blog. Most notably on China, he says that they “signed on to the 2009 sanctions effort, but was more reticent following the April 2012 test. It remains to be seen what they will offer today, but we expect it will be marginal tweaks on the entities and individuals subject to sanction. Then the question becomes whether Beijing will enforce what it signs, and our cynicism on that question is pretty deep. As the more elaborated Xinhua coverage suggests, the reference to North Korea’s obligations not to test under 1874 will likely recede and concerns about escalation will drive Beijing to revert to its “even-handed” approach. China may be sending private messages to cease and desist, but they have certainly not proven strong enough to have any effect.”
UPDATE (0225EST): China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed regret over North Korea’s rocket launch and also called on the North to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. He also said the situation should be resolved through talks.
UPDATE (0143EST): North Korea has released a second statement, saying in part “Our scientists and technicians, holding up Kim Jong Il’s will, succeeded in putting the “Kwangmyongsang-3″ No.2 satellite into orbit, by “Unha-3,” a delivery rocket.” In addition, they said ”The complete success of “Kwangmyongsong-3″ No.2 is a proud fruit of our party’s emphasis on science and technology policy, and a historical event in the process of advancing the country’s science technology and economy by independently asserting its right to peaceful use of space. Our scientists and technicians brilliantly upheld our great general’s will to launch a science technology satellite in 2012, which marks the 100th year of our great leader, in a time when the entire country is filled with endless longing and admiration of our great comrade Kim Jong Il.”
UPDATE (0138EST): The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “deep regret” over the North’s rocket launch, saying in a statement that the launch increased instability in the region. In addition, it “called on other nations to refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions.”
UPDATE (0125EST): North Korea expert Leonid Petrov told NK New
North Korea’s 12.12.2012 rocket launch is very symbolic. It places the North Korean space exploration program ahead of its South Korean rival; it permits the DPRK regime to continue claiming its legitimacy and extends its life by consolidating the people around it; it also sends the strong signal to the world that international sanctions against North Korea don’t work and it’s time to return to the negotiating table. Altogether, the launch strengthens Kim Jong Un’s regime and elevates the stakes in the Korean security dilemma to a new height.
UPDATE (0113EST): Briefing reporters for a second time today, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said that the South had “confirmed that North Korea had re-stationed the rocket to the launching pad yesterday night.” It also stated that the South could confirm the first and second stages of the rocket launch were successful and commented that the reason for the launch seemed to be in order to solidify the standing of the Kim Jong Un regime. In response to a reporter’s question, the spokesperson said that they “did not recognize the cargo [of the rocket] as a satellite, but just a payload.” They also stated that the North’s rocket entered orbit but were not sure if it was functioning correctly.
UPDATE (1251EST): Moon Jae-in and the Saenuri Party have released statements on the launch. Moon Jae-in’s spokesperson Park Yong-jin condemned (link in Korean) the launching of the rocket, saying it was “clearly a provocation that increases the tension in the Korean peninsula.” However, he also criticized the Lee Myung-bak government, saying that its “national security incompetence in not being able to confirm whether a 20-story sized rocket was dismantled or launched is the primary source of our insecurity.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Saenuri Party also said (link in Korean) that the launch was a “serious provocation” but lashed out at Moon’s spokesperson saying his comments were “ignorant of the reason why the international community is concerned and against North Korea’s long-range rocket launching test…” It emphasized that Park Geun-hye, the Saenuri Party candidate, would pursue a “strong national security” while also seeking “dialogue, humanitarian assistance and mutually beneficial cooperation with North Korea.” It said the government would take “strong measures against North Korea’s missile provocation…not only through the Six-Party talks but also in cooperation with the international community, especially the United Nations.”
UPDATE (1231EST): An editorial in the Chinese newspaper “Xinhua” said that “Like other nations, the DPRK has the right to conduct peaceful exploration of the outer space. However, Pyongyang should also abide by relevant UN Security Council resolutions…” The article goes on to say that, despite Pyongyang’s clarifications, “the latest satellite launch was seen by South Korea, Japan and the United States as an attempt to test the DPRK’s ballistic missile capabilities” which “testifies to a dangerous lack of trust between the DPRK and those countries.” The editorial then calls for a resumption of the six-party talks but notably does not say whether or not China supports further UN sanctions.
UPDATE (1227EST): White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that “North Korea’s launch today – using ballistic missile technology despite express prohibitions by United Nations Security Council resolutions – is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security.” He went on to say that the act was “another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior” and called for the international community to “work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences.”
North Korea launched its rocket just before 10am this morning from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the West coast of the Korean peninsula, and has claimed to have successfully put its satellite in orbit . A report from North Korean state moutpiece the KCNA said:
The launching of the satellite ‘Gwangmyongsong-3′ using the “Unha-3″ rocket was a success, and the satellite has entered into its planned orbit.
Space analysts have confirmed that the rocket “deployed an object”, but this analysis has been contradicted by a Japanese official. Nevertheless, a special broadcast on North Korean state television is claiming its satellite is in orbit:
[youtube id="h7N5HJso9e8" width="620" height="340"]
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK government strongly condemns the launch, and “will be summoning the DPRK Ambassador to the UK to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.
South Korean government spokesman Kim Min-seok told South Korean media gathered for a press conference at the Ministry of Defence in Seoul:
At 0951 this morning, the [North Korean] rocket was launched from the Tongch’ang-dong Space Launch Center. The rocket was tracked until 0958, when the object passed over the West of Okinawa
Kim also told reporters that there were indications of the launch since yesterday, but this information was not revealed to the public.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has reportedly called an immediate national security meeting and Japan has requested that the UN Security Council convene today [Wednesday] and Japanese Prime Minister Noda has called a national security meeting for 1055 Tokyo time.
Speaking to CNN, a senior US official said that they were “surprised” by the launch and that it was “not expected”.
A Japanese government spokesperson also said they estimate rocket debris to have fallen in Korean coastal waters at 0958KST, and that the first stage of the rocket is likely to drop in the Pacific Ocean, 300km to the East of the Philippines.
Most analysts had predicted the rocket would not be fired until after December 21st. Only yesterday, South Korean media reported that the rocket had been dismantled, and a North Korean press release announced that they had extended the launch window to December 29th.
Jack Pritchard, former U.S. Envoy to North Korea told NK News
It appears that North Korea has significantly improved its missile capability, calmed domestic concerns about its leadership and created a new dynamic in the upcoming South Korean presidential election.
Speaking from Seoul, John Swenson-Wright, Senior lecturer in East Asian International Relations at the University of Cambridge told NK News
It’s difficult to determine, at this point, whether the launch constitutes a success, but the range of the rocket – with reports indicating that it has overflown Okinawa and landed well east of the Philippines may indicate that Pyongyang has succeeded in its ability to test a long-range rocket.
Japan’s decision not to intercept the rocket in flight was doubtless a wise-one and will not have raised questions about the reliabilty of its missile defence capabilities in the first instance and the decision by Japan and the ROK leaderships to convene two separate national security meetings is a measure of the gravity of the situation.
It is likely that this will be seen as a success on the part of the North Korean leadership, which has again demonstrated its independence and ability to challenge and surprise the international community” said Swenson-Wright, who is also a Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House.
Nicholas Hamisevicz, Director of Research and Academic Affairs at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington D.C. said
The launch definitely indicates that Pyongyang has calculated that the immediate benefits from a launch outweigh the perceived gains they may receive in 2013.
Asian stock markest have remained relatively stable following the news.
More details to follow on NK News. Follow us on Twitter @nknewsorg for more breaking news updates. Note: headline image from previous launch