[/caption]On Sunday, North Korea carried out its promise of launching a rocket carrying a satellite, as part of their peaceful space program. Naturally, this move has drawn massive international condemnation, prompting US President Barack Obama make a statement in Prague during his European tour. Japan has also reacted angrily, tightening sanctions against the state.
Although a rocket was launched, it was far from being a success, but it wasn’t a failure either. If the world were to listen to the official line coming out of Pyongyang, one would think Kim Jong-il has his first communications satellite in orbit, but the reality is a little more pedestrian. The Taepoding-2 rocket didn’t make it into space at all, and rather than orbiting the Earth, the communications satellite now rests at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. However, this is a worrying development, the missile had a successful first-staging, propelling the rocket over Japanese airspace, a technical success in itself…
“North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles,” President Obama said in Prague. “It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.”
The North Korean rocket launch may not have successfully put a satellite into orbit, but Pyongyang’s actions have certainly sent international politics into a spin. North Korea isn’t known for its subtlety when it comes to international relations, and when you have a state that is so secretive about its nuclear ambitions (we know they have the beginnings of a nuclear weapons program after the 2006 underground nuclear bomb test), it is little wonder surrounding nations will be getting tense. In this case, Japan bore the brunt of Pyongyang’s sabre rattling, saying that if Japanese forces intercepted the rocket, the North Korea army would strike “major targets” in the country.
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Ahead of Sunday’s launch, the US and allies neighbouring North Korea warned that should the launch go ahead, there would be serious political and economic consequences. Unfortunately, Jong-il’s government didn’t budge and launched anyway. Apart from causing world-wide condemnation, did the rocket actually succeed? According to one expert, the Taepoding-2 rocket launch was a “partial success.”
“It says, first of all, they had successful first staging and (were) able to control the rocket through staging,” said retired General Henry Obering, former director of the US missile defense agency. “That is a significant step forward for any missile program because often times the missiles become unstable as they go through the staging events.”
Although the first stage of the rocket launch was a success, showing that North Korea is slowly improving their long-range missile capabilities, the rest of the stages failed, causing pieces of the rocket to fall into the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean.
In a post-launch statement however, the Korea Central News Agency quoted Kim Jong-il as saying “It is a striking demonstration of the might of our juche-oriented science and technology that our scientists and technicians developed both the multistage carrier rocket and the satellite with their own wisdom and technology . . . 100% and accurately put the satellite into orbit at one go.” Whether the statement actually came from Jong-il is open to debate, but the report is woefully wrong, the satellite didn’t come close to orbit.
Apart from the obvious propaganda, the launch will cause concern. The missile system is known to have an optimum range of 4200 miles, possibly with the ability to reach Hawaii and Alaska. Although the rocket failed and dropped into the Pacific, this episode clearly demonstrates the direction of North Korea’s technological advancements.
Source: Physorg, LA Times