North Korean soldiers stand in front of the country's Unha-3 rocket before launch David Guttenfelder/AP/Press Association Images
North Korea

VIDEO: North Korean rocket shatters after launch

The rocket splintered into pieces over the sea just a minute or two after taking off.

NORTH KOREA’S MUCH-anticipated rocket launch has ended quickly in an embarrassing failure, splintering into pieces over the sea.

Within minutes of the launch early this morning, the US and South Korea declared it a failure. North Korea acknowledged the fact hours later in an announcement broadcast on state TV, admitting its satellite hadn’t entered into orbit.

World leaders were swift to denounce the launch, calling it a covert test of missile technology and a flagrant violation of international resolutions prohibiting North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs.

The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting for later today, and Washington said it was suspending plans to contribute food aid to the North in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programs.

Space officials in Pyongyang had refused to back down, telling reporters earlier in the week that it is North Korea’s “sovereign right” to develop its space program.

State media said the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri along the west coast at 7.38 am local time (10.38pm last night Irish time).

“The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. “Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.”

This short simulation shows the planned path of the rocket:


North Korean space officials said the Unha-3, or Galaxy-3, rocket was meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns — its third bid to launch a satellite since 1998. Officials had earlier brought foreign journalists to the west coast site to see the rocket and the satellite in a bid to show its transparency amid accusations of defiance.

The acknowledgment of the rocket’s failure — both to the outside world and to North Koreans — was a surprising admission by a government that in the past has kept tight control over information. In Pyongyang, dozens of foreign journalists invited to cover the launch were not allowed to view the liftoff live.

North Korea had staked its pride on the satellite, seeing it as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship while Kim Il Sung’s young grandson, Kim Jong Un, solidifies power following the death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.

“It blows a big hole in the birthday party,” said Victor Cha, who was an Asia adviser for former President George W. Bush. “It’s terribly embarrassing for the North.”

In pictures: Welcome to the North Korean space control centre!>

Associated Foreign Press
Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.