North Korean Rocket Launch Fails: US Officials

ABC News
North Korean Rocket Launch Fails: US Officials

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North Korean Rocket Launch Fails: US Officials (ABC News)

North Korea's anticipated missile launch failed today after it fired the long-range test rocket, defying U.N. Security Council resolutions and an agreement with the United States.

The 90-ton rocket launched and there was a larger than anticipated flare.

U.S. officials said that the missile is belived to have crashed into the sea.

It was launched from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the northern part of the country, near its border with China.

It is expected to travel south by southwest, passing by South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. Splash down is expected to take place in the waters off the coast of Australia.

The Communist nation had announced a five day window for launching the satellite, which began on Thursday.

The show of muscle put the region on edge, but Donald Gregg, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea from 1989-1993 and an ABC News consultant, said he believed it was new leader Kim Jong Un's way of asserting his power.

"The main audience for this missile is internal not external," Gregg said. "This is [Kim Jong Un's] way of demonstrating to the people of North Korea he is in charge and his country is capable of high tech things. It is a manifestation of his power."

North Korea claimed the planned rocket launch was just a satellite called Shining Star, which was being launched into orbit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the regime's founder, Kim Il Sung.

Experts did not doubt the possibility of a satellite being attached to the rocket, but feel the satellite is a cover to test a long-range missile.

A nuclear test may soon follow. Large amounts of dirt and ground cover are being moved at one of North Korea's nuclear sites, which experts believe indicates the North Koreans plan to test a nuclear device. Even more alarming is that officials believe that, unlike the first two nuclear tests North Korea conducted with plutonium, this one could be a uranium device, which would indicate a secret uranium production facility.

Gregg said the U.S. likely would not be a direct target of a potentially nuclear North Korea.

"The North Korea nuclear capability is not ever designed to be used against us. They know anything used against us would result in a catastrophic response," he said.

The rocket launch defies two United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from testing ballistics missiles. It also breaks a promise North Korean leaders made to U.S. leaders in Beijing at the end of February.

The regime had promised to suspend nuclear missile tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches in exchange for food aid from the United States.

On Tuesday, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said the launch of a rocket would hinder the promised aid.

"It's impossible to imagine that we would be able to follow through [and] provide the nutritional assistance that we had planned on providing, given what would be a flagrant violation of North Korea's basic international obligations," Carney said.

Gregg said that given North Korea's history of honoring important events in its regime with extravagant displays of propaganda, the U.S. should have anticipated the country would do something to honor founder Kim Il Sung's birthday.

"It's unfortunate the timing is how it is," he said, adding that he hoped the U.S. would send an envoy to North Korea to work on building a dialogue.

"The obstacle to that is domestically here. The Republicans would be all over anything like that as appeasement," he said. " For Obama to do this in an election year is unlikely."

The rocket launch is the first under Kim Jong Un. The regime's leader, who is believed to be 29 years old, assumed party leadership in January of this year, weeks after the death of his father.

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