Peter Foster – Telegraph.co.uk April 5, 2009
The launch of the missile at 02.30 GMT (11.30am local time) from a coastal site in the country’s northeast provoked international condemnation amid suggestions it was a disguised test of a ballistic missile.
However North Korean officials quickly reported that the three-stage rocket had sucessfuly placed into orbit a satellite broadcasting revolutionary songs.
A state media report described the launch as a "proud achievement made out of our battle to upgrade our country's space scientific technology."
Seoul, which is planning its own satellite launch later this year, responded by saying the rocket and any payload had fallen into the sea, a claim supported by the US.
The only previous test of a Taepodong-2 missile, in July 2006 ended in failure after the missile blew apart 40 seconds after lift-off.
The launch came after weeks of escalating tensions in which North Korean has threatened to pull out permanently from the stalled Six-Party nuclear disarmament talks if any country attempted to interfere with its missile test.
The US immediately announced it would take steps to show the regime of Kim Jong-il know that it could not threaten the security of other nations with impunity.
President Barack Obama said in a statement that North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, had violated U.N. resolutions and increased its own isolation.
"With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations," said Mr Obama.
Yu Myung-Hwan, foreign minister of South Korea called the launch a “reckless” act. “Regardless of any North Korean claims, this is provocative activity which threatens stability and peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” he added.
Japan, which last week had threatened to intercept the missile if it fell towards Japanese territory also condemned the launch as a provocative action.
“It is extremely regrettable that North Korea went ahead with the launch ... and we protest strongly,” said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.
However despite having international opprobrium heaped upon it, analysts said the launch will be used as a major propaganda tool for Kim Jong-il’s regime which draws its strength at home from defying international opinion.
Analysts added that the US and other nations would have to tread a fine line between ‘punishing’ the North for its irresponsible actions and driving it further into international isolation and a possible resumption of uranium enrichment for its nuclear weapons programme.
The UN Security Council will meet in New York later today to discuss the launch, but diplomats have hinted that fresh sanctions against the North are unlikely as they would be opposed by China and Russia as counterproductive.
More likely are discussions on how to apply existing sanctions more thoroughly, the unnamed added.
Analysts also say that the response to Pyongyang’s decision to ignore pleas not to launch the missile would also be a test of China’s willingness to support international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
A united diplomatic response to the test is also made more difficult by legal disputes over whether a 2006 UN resolution banning the North from ballistic missile testing would cover a satellite test.
You Tube: Al Jazeera report
Last updated 07/04/2009