South Korea and the United States on Wednesday said that North Korea’s controversial three-stage rocket launch was able to send an object into space, significantly raising the threat posed by the isolated communist state to the region.
Officials said they will have to wait to see if it is able to enter the orbit and function normally.
Both the U.S. and South Korea condemned Pyongyang for pushing forward technology that could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead.
“The South Korean and the U.S. military evaluated the object loaded on the rocket just entered the orbit,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said at a news conference Wednesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
“Although it entered the orbit, we have to wait and see whether it can continue to function normally,” he continued.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, also confirmed that a missile was launched from North Korea.
North Korean state-run media said the launch of the Unha-3 rocket was “part of peaceful work in line with the country’s scientific and technological development plan,” and also claimed that “people across the country are greatly excited at the news of the successful launch.”
But South Korea was not so exited about the development.
“It should enter the orbit and normally operate. To become a missile, it should be able to make re-entry (to the Earth),” Kim told the conference. Meanwhile, a military source to the news agency that the rocket might be able to fly as far as 8,000 miles, which about as far as a standard intercontinental ballistic missile.
The rocket launch comes nearly a year after former leader Kim Jong Il died. Five previous rocket launch attempts have failed.
The first stage of the rocket was able to separate around 30 miles south of the Dongchang-ri launch area in northern North Korea, and the piece fell into the waters west of the Korean Peninsula, according to Yonhap. The second part fell into waters near the Philippines, and the rocket’s cover fell near the island of Jeju.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told North Korea that the move is a clear violation of the Security Council’s mandate that bans the country from carrying out tests of ballistic missile technology.
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