North Korea launches rocket, defying international pressure

Sunday, April 5, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea carried out a rocket launch Sunday that the U.S., Japan and other nations suspect was a cover for a test of its long-range missile technology.

Liftoff took place at 9:30 p.m. Saturday from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea, the South Korean and U.S. governments said.

Japan immediately called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.

The multistage rocket flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese broadcaster NHK said, citing its government.

"Our primary concern is to confirm safety and gather information," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a news conference at his Tokyo office today.

The launch was an act of defiance against Aso, President Obama, Hu Jintao of China and other leaders who pressed Pyongyang in the days leading up to liftoff to call off a launch they said would threaten peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

The U.S., South Korea, Japan and others suspect the launch is a guise for testing the regime's long-range missile technology -- one step toward eventually mounting a nuclear weapon on a missile capable of reaching Alaska and beyond.

They earlier vowed to take North Korea to the U.N. Security Council for a launch they said violates a 2006 resolution barring the regime from ballistic missile activity.

South Korea's presidential Blue House called the launch a "reckless" move that poses a "serious threat" to stability on the Korean peninsula.

"We cannot contain our disappointment and regret over North Korea's reckless act," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told reporters Sunday. He said the launch of the long-range rocket "poses a serious threat to security on the Korean peninsula and the world."

Obama said Friday the launch would be "provocative" and said the U.S. would "take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it can't threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity."

The launch "will prompt the United States to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it cannot threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity," State Department spokesman Fred Lash said in Washington.

Security Council diplomats said Friday that a draft resolution in circulation could reaffirm and tighten enforcement of the demands and sanctions of a resolution passed after North Korea conducted a nuclear test on 2006.

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