North Korea rocket launch fails


Giant statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were unveiled despite the rocket failure

North Korea's keenly watched rocket launch has failed, Pyongyang has confirmed.

The rocket - seen by many as a banned test of long-range missile technology - was launched from north-west North Korea early on Friday.

The US, Japan and South Korea say it flew only for a short time before breaking up and crashing into waters off the Korean peninsula.

North Korea said its scientists were assessing what had caused the failure.

North Korea says the aim of the launch was to put a satellite into orbit - a move marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung.

The failure of this launch is embarrassing for the North Korean regime. It had been billed as a sign of the North's technical achievement.

But the news that it had failed was only given at midday local time. For four hours after the launch, there was no word at all. The international journalists assembled in the press centre were told nothing. Then state media said rocket scientists and technicians were looking into why it failed to reach orbit.

In previous days we had been taken to see the launch pad on the West Sea site. North Korea wanted to insist this was just a satellite launch and not a test of missile technology as others had feared. It wanted to show us its mastery of technology.

As well as being an embarrassment for North Korea's leaders, it has also drawn international condemnation. And there is more condemnation to come in the hours ahead.

But the US and other nations say the launch constituted a disguised test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

In a statement, the White House condemned the launch, despite its failure. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the launch deplorable.

The UN Security Council is due to meet later in the day to discuss the launch. China, North Korea's closest ally, has called for calm and restraint on the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un has been appointed "first chairman" of the country's top decision-making body, the National Defence Commission, state media say. His late father, Kim Jong-Il, was made the commission's "eternal chairman" by the country's rubber-stamp parliament.

The move continues the transfer of power to Kim Jong-un from his father, who died in December.

Following the failed rocket launch, Kim Jong-un led tens of thousands of people in lavish celebrations in central Pyongyang at which giant statues were unveiled to his late father and grandfather.

Rocket debris

The 30m (100ft) Unha-3 rocket went up at 07:39 local time (22:39 GMT Thursday), South Korean officials said.

Start Quote

What has happened could not be more disastrous for North Korea ”

End Quote Aidan Foster-Carter Korea analyst, Leeds University

Its intended flight path would have taken it south, to the west of the Korean peninsula between Japan and the Philippines.

Both Japan and South Korea had threatened to shoot it down if it threatened their territory.

But officials from several nations observing the launch said the rocket had failed.

"Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165km (105 miles) west of Seoul, South Korea," the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) said in a statement.

"The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat."

Japan reported similar details.

"At approximately 07:40 we confirmed that a certain flying object was launched from North Korea and fell after flying for just over a minute," Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka said.

South Korea said the rocket exploded into some 20 pieces and fell into the sea.

"We are conducting a search operation to retrieve the fallen objects," a defence ministry official said.

Some five hours after the launch, North Korea confirmed it had been unsuccessful.

"The Earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," state-run KCNA news agency said. State television carried a similar announcement.

Start Quote

Space is hard - it's a truism and we've just seen further evidence of it”

End Quote

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas, who is one of a number of foreign journalists invited into North Korea for the launch, said the group had not been given any more information beyond that brief statement.

The rocket's failure, our correspondent said, is an embarrassment for the North Korean leadership.

It will also come, analysts say, as a relief to many countries who are worried about North Korea's potential to deliver weapons via long-range missiles.

'Provocative action'

The US said that North Korea's behaviour was of concern to the global community.

"Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," a White House statement said.

Statues of former leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were unveiled at a lavish ceremony in Pyongyang

Pyongyang agreed in February to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. But that deal was put on hold last month after the North announced its rocket launch plans.

Earlier this week reports also emerged from South Korea of a possible third nuclear test being planned by North Korea.

North Korea conducted a similar rocket launch in 2009. On that occasion US and South Korean analysts said the rocket failed to reach orbit - but North Korea said it was a success.

The failure of this launch could pose a challenge for Pyongyang, which is holding a week of high-profile events ahead of the formal celebrations to mark Kim Il-sung's birthday on Sunday.

The Workers' Party held a rare conference on Wednesday ahead of the annual one-day session of the Supreme People's Assembly on Friday.

Both meetings are seen as formalising the transition of power to young leader Kim Jong-un following the death of Kim Jong-il.


More on This Story

Korea crisis


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Instead of imposing more sanctions on N.Korea why not remove the existing ones and start to behave in a less hostile manner towards the country. We all know its only trying to defend itself, anything else would not be tollerated by any of its neighbours, including China.
    It's the people of the country that are suffering, not its leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Such a shame, in South Korea we have more important things to worry about than a failed rocket launch. Serves Mr. Kim Jong-Un and his band of merry yes men right, they should have focused on feeding their own people rather than waste their effort on rockets. I bet it was awkward with all the foreign press in the control room when the rocket failed...

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    Another failed socialist state which continues to delude itself on its power as well as politics.
    It is doomed to go the way of other socialist states, fail .It is only propped up by China as a buffer state.
    We cannot let these delusional socialists have both nuclear weapons and delivery systems as well

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Who opened the gates of the asylum?

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Generally speaking, it shows this state as a unit threatenng an another state, but that failrue of a rocket shows their weakness. It can cause political weakness of this state and that an another states will stop being afraid of hidden huge of the North Korea I suppose it is a start of failures. If only there wil not be a failure of the nuclear rocket and losing of control under the fly of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Did NK try asking Britain if it could have our Black Arrow launcher that put the Prospero satellite into orbit in 1971?

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Spare a thought for all the scientists and officials reponsible for the launch. For some of them it will be a one-way trip to the labour camps or gallows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Glancing at Nasa satellite list, available online, CLEARLY states that of the 43 nuclear reactors & cores (many of which are Russian from Cosmos radar-equipped naval surveilance sats) some have de-orbited & the Canada incident in 24th Jan 1978 & the american SNAP-type reactor de-orbit are of note.

    Check out facts before regurgitating propaganda re. world happy over american antics!

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Who launched the test missile a few years back, which graced our screens as a spectacular spiral Catherine Wheel effect in the sky, before disintegrating?

    I'm sure one or two of the experts here can remember...

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    So Afghans should nuke USA when they had the chance? Do you know how many people died in Japan? And even their next generation suffered and you are defending that... Because you think whatever USA does is justified. A twisted mentality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    @359.bangers64, sorry thats a specious argument, no-one has cornered North Korea, they have pretty much been left to thier own devices over the years, sadly though its internal policies failed leading to wide spread famine, at that point the regime in NK decided that to take its populations mind off starving, it would start sabre rattling with its Songun policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    What a waste of money, that it could be better used to feed and house those poor devils that are not the "elite"; shows how much we should take as the truth from a dictorship, at least when a minister from a "democracy" lies we have the chance to vote them out, well every 4/5yrs!! I firmly believe that both the US & the UN are powerless, how do starve a country already starving?

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    How entirely predictable I guess it was a test after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Re Challenger disaster.
    The main rocket boosters were poorly designed as they had to be built in sections for easier transportation from the Mid-West. The decision to build them there was purely political; NASA would receive support and funding.
    The night before the Challenger launch the engineers were not happy but were overruled by management under political pressure to launch.

  • Comment number 390.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Uh Oh...someone somewhere in North Koreas rocket project will be filling there Wellies right now.

    The rest of the World should leave North Korea to rot until such times as it becomes a country of some normality and stability, It would go belly up within a Year if it didnt get Aid from somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    I think all the left wing anti democracy fools on here should go and live in NK. I am sure they would love the wages and working conditions forced out by the proud leader of socialism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    "David H Parry
    Not heard of them doing the same when these bits of old space tat re-enter over anyplace else"

    Absence of evidence (or of not investigating the question more thoroughly) is not evidence of absence. Just as not condemning every possible injustice or enemy on every HYS irrespective of topic is not evidence of support for said injustice or enemy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    We deploy a state of the art destroyer (and posssibly a nuke sub) to Falklands & thats 'routine'. NK (try to) launch a rocket and it has to be a missile.

    Truth is relative, we just pick one that suits at the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Re #324 "so it's ok for US to launch 4million rockets into the sky with satellites which will eventually fall to earth and kill someone on the ground, but N Korea can't launch one because America says so?"

    Name a single US satellite/rocket which fell in inhabited area, let alone killed anybody - comrade.

    [I recall PanAm 103 falling on Lockerbee, though. Care to read on it?]


Page 17 of 37


More Asia stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.