Ju-min Park –
North Korea’s much hyped long-range rocket apparently crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch on Friday, South Korean and other officials said, dealing a blow to the prestige of the reclusive and impoverished state.
Pyongyang had defied international pressure from the United States and others to push ahead with the launch, which even its close ally China had warned against.
According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, citing a defence ministry source in Tokyo, the rocket flew for 120 km (75 miles) and then broke up into four pieces, crashing into waters off the west coast of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea’s army said debris had crashed into the sea some 200 km off the western coast of South Korea.
“South Korean and U.S. intelligence understand that North Korea’s missile launch failed,” a spokesman for the South’s defence ministry told reporters at a briefing.
North Korea said it wanted the Unha-3 rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit, although critics believed it was designed to enhance the capacity of North Korea to design a ballistic missile deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States.
Officials from Japan confirmed the mission had failed, while ABC News cited U.S. officials saying it had failed, although there was no immediate indication of where it fell.