U.S. officials said Thursday that while North Korea was able to successfully launch a rocket earlier this week, the satellite that it sent into space appears to be losing control.
The object is “tumbling out of control,” an unnamed official told NBC News. The officials have not yet determined the purpose of the satellite.
If the satellite is out of control, it could pose a risk to other satellites and other objects orbiting the Earth. It could also pose a threat to people and property on the ground. In 2009, two satellites crashed above Siberia in Russia, creating a cloud of debris.
However, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that the satellite was circling around the Earth in a normal way, but it is still yet to be determined if it is functioning properly, reported the Yonhap News Agency.
“It is not yet known what kind of mission the satellite is conducting,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told the news agency. “It usually takes two weeks to evaluate whether a satellite is successful. For the time being, it is working normally.”
Even though the isolated and communist country sent a satellite into space, U.S. and South Korean officials believe that the launch was merely a guise to test out a long-range rocket capable of hitting targets as far away as the West Coast of the United States. The three-stage rocket has about the same range as an ICBM, or around 6,000 miles, Kim said.
The South Korean navy on Thursday said that it found pieces of the long-range rocket off the coast of North Jeolla Province and will soon recover some of the pieces, according to the Daily NK website.
“The wreckage has the word ‘Ha’ written on it in Korean script, confirming that it is a fragment of the ‘Unha-3’ rocket,” a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, according to the website.
The United Nations Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both condemned the North’s rocket launch Wednesday, saying it was a clear violation of the council’s imposed ban on Pyongyang from carrying out testing using ballistic missile technology.
The Security Council, which includes North Korea neighbors China and Russia, will convene Thursday to discuss the launch.
The rocket launch Tuesday came as a surprise due to reports that came out the same day, which said satellite imagery showed that the rocket had been removed from the launch pad for repairs.
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