North Korea Claims Success in Missile Launch

North Korea launched a multi-stage Unha-3 rocket on Tuesday evening US East Coast time and claimed to have successfully placed a small satellite into orbit called the Kwangmyongsong-3. “The satellite entered its preset orbit,” stated the state-run Korean Central News Agency at its website. The rocket lifted off from a site in the western part of the communist nation. NORAD officials said US missile warning systems detected and tracked the missile, starting at 7:49 p.m., as it flew on a southerly azimuth. “Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit,” states NORAD’s Dec. 11 release. “At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America,” notes the release. Stars and Stripes reported that the missile passed over western Okinawa, Japan. The White House condemned the launch. “This action is yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. North Korea has maintained that the satellite launch was for peaceful scientific purposes. Conversely, the United States, Japan, and South Korea say the North Koreans are validating long-range ballistic missile technology so that they could one day deliver nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the continental United States. (See also Associated Press report, BBC report, and Reuters’ coverage of the launch.)