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Terrorism & Security

North Korea satellite misses orbit – and Japan

Kim Jong Il's regime claims that the 3-stage Taepodong-2 missile was used to put a communications satellite into orbit. US officials say it fell into the Pacific Ocean.

By / April 5, 2009

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North Korea defied warnings from the international community and launched an intercontinental missile capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii on Sunday. The move sent tremors through the communist state's neighbors and may result in tightened international sanctions.

North Korean officials claim that the 3-stage Taepodong-2 missile was used to put a communications satellite into orbit. In 2006, North Korea tried unsuccessfully to launch a Taepodong-2 missile, but the Washington Post reports that the Asian nation has been working with Iran to develop the technology. In February, Iran also launched one of the missiles.

North Korean state media has reported that the missile successfully delivered the satellite into earth's orbit. But the Associated Press quotes US officials who say it landed in the Pacific Ocean.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command officials issued a statement disputing any success.
"Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan," the statement said. "The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean. No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan."

The Korea Times, a South Korean newspaper, reports that in 1998 their northern neighbor announced the successful deployment a satellite, but the claim was never independently verified.

"Judging from the track the rocket made when North Korea fired, it was confirmed as the rocket to the space. But whether a satellite is actually loaded or not has not been confirmed," the Korea Times quotes an unnamed official as saying.

The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) offers satellite images of the launch site.

Japan, which already had tense relations with North Korea, was among the most vocal within the international community condemning the launch. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, Japan's government spokesman said his nation would extend sanctions against North Korea that were due to expire on April 13 for another year, but it would await response from the United Nations Security Council before enacting additional measures, reports The Japan Times.

"I cannot help but say that the launch, carried out by North Korea despite repeated requests to refrain from doing so, was a grave provocative action from the viewpoint of security," Kawamura said. "It is a violation of United Nations Resolutions 1695 and 1718, and it is extremely regrettable."

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