In a rare admission of failure, North Korea has confirmed that the launch of its long-range Unha-3 (Galaxy) rocket failed to send a satellite into orbit.
The Unha-3 rocket was carrying a domestically developed Kwangmyongsong-3 polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite, to honour the 100th birthday of its late-President Kim Il Sung, which falls on 15 April 2012.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency reported: "The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians, and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure."
The US and South Korea said that the rocket exploded after about 90 seconds, sending debris into the Yellow Sea.
The Pentagon said: “The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat.”
Meanwhile, the South Korean Defence Ministry has been reported as saying that the rocket reached a height of 150km over Baengnyeong Island and broke, spreading debris over an area between 100km and 150km from South Korea’s west coast.
The launch was condemned by the US and other nations, claiming the move to be a threat and a very clear violation of two United Nations Security Council resolutions and of their obligations to the international community.
Commenting on the launch failure, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated: “Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea’s provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law, and contravenes its own recent commitments.”
However, North Korean officials insist that they will "strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes."
The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet in New York later today to discuss the move that violated UN resolutions.
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