North Korea’s rocket launch on Sunday appears to have been a success at putting a satellite into orbit, South Korean military sources told the Yonhap News Agency on Sunday.
If true, it would be the second time North Korea has successfully put a satellite into orbit, though neither South Korean nor U.S. agencies have confirmed whether it is in communication with DPRK space authorities.
The report stated that the
The Korean Central News Agency, commenting after the launch, said that it took place as part of a “.”
Notably, Japan did not make any attempt to shoot down the rocket, even though national Japanese broadcaster NHK said reports said it passed over the Okinawa prefecture.
Japan last week said it would shoot down the rocket if it were confirmed to drop in or near its territory.
Meanwhile, the U.S., South Korea and Japan have requested the UN Security Council convene to discuss the launch, Tokyo’s Kyodo News said.
The rocket launch is a violation of UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874, both of which prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missile technology.
“The United States strongly condemns today’s missile launch by the DPRK – a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions related to the DPRK use of ballistic missile technology,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.
“This is the second time in over a month that the DPRK has chosen to conduct a major provocation, threatening not only the security of the peninsula but that of the region and the United States as well.”
The launch was also condemned in a statement from the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“It is deeply deplorable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has conducted a launch using ballistic missile technology in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions on (February 6,) 2016 despite the united plea of the international community against such an act,” the statement read.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the DPRK to halt its provocative actions and return to compliance with its international obligations. He reaffirms his commitment to working with all sides in reducing tensions and achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
There have been no new UN sanctions on the North following its January nuclear test, largely due to the U.S. and China’s failure to reach an agreement. On Sunday, following the launch, China expressed “regret” over the North’s actions.
“China has noticed that the DPRK announced the launch of the satellite, and also noted the reaction of the parties concerned,” a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry noted North Korea’s claim to the right to peaceful use of space, but also said that the launch was forbidden by the UN Security Council’s resolutions and said it had discouraged the North from going through with the decision.
China also expressed hopes that the parties involved would deal with the situation calmly and not cause it to escalate.
North Korea’s launch of the satellite a little under a month after its fourth nuclear test surprised many observers for not following the previous pattern of first conducting a rocket launch, then conducting a nuclear test only after subsequent UN Security Council condemnation.
An observer noted the increased capabilities displayed in the launch, and said they will likely set foreign powers on edge.
“This launch seems to have reached a greater range. No matter what North Korea says, the U.S. will consider this serious,” said Cheong Seong-chang, chief of the unification strategy team of Sejong Institute.
“This is intended to create an atmosphere of celebration for Kim Jong Il’s birthday (officially celebrated February 16), as well as the (Workers’) Party (of Korea) Congress (in May). Kim Jong Un wants to show off nuclear and missile capacity and missile as the largest contribution.”
“Despite international society’s opposition, North Korea has declared that it will keep continuing the nuclear test and long-range missile launches.”
Cheong also said the U.S. will now likely prioritize reining in the North’s missile proliferation rather than its nuclear weapons development.
“Therefore, the U.S. will increase the pressure to deploy the THAAD (missile defense system) in South Korea,” he said. “(Chinese) President Xi (Jinping)’s phone call to (South Korean) President Park (Geun-hye) seems to include his intent to prevent THAAD deployment.”
Another, though, said the full “success” of the launch could not yet be evaluated.
Daniel Pinkston, formerly of the International Crisis Group, said it was not clear whether the North launched its Unha-3 or a “newer and larger” SLV.
Ha-Young Choi, JH Ahn and Rob York contributed to this report.
Featured image: Ann-News Japan
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