By Stephen Hong
North Korea launched its long-range rocket today but it crashed in pieces into the sea shortly after takeoff.
The Unha-3 rocket took off from the Tongchang-ri launch site in North Korea at 0037 GMT but crashed just a few minutes later, according to Kim Min-seok, South Korean defense ministry spokesman.
During a special briefing this morning, Kim said: “South Korean and US intelligence authorities believe that North Korea’s missile launch ended in failure.”
North Korea announced on March 16 that it would launch “an observation satellite” into space on the back of a long-range missile between April 12 and 16, as part of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung on April 15.
The announcement of the launch sparked widespread international condemnation and the US said it would cancel a plan to provide 240,000 tons of food aid in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on nuclear testing and uranium enrichment activities.
Just after the launch, President Lee Myung-bak held an emergency meeting of security related ministers to discuss countermeasures.
After the meeting, Kim Sung-hwan foreign minister told reporters “the failure of the missile launch has been confirmed.”
The minister condemned “the launch directly violated the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on North Korea, banning any launch using ballistic missile technology.” The launch posed a threat to regional security, he said.
The resolution was unanimously adopted by the UN council in June 2009 a month after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test.
Kim also said: “North Korean authorities have been indulging in developing missiles and nuclear weapons, while ignoring their people’s hunger.”
He said South Korean government is considering countermeasures to effectively address the North’s threat to the international community.