North Korea said its much hyped long-range rocket launch failed yesterday, in a very rare and embarrassing public admission of failure by Pyongyang and a blow for its new young leader, who faces international outrage over the launch.
The North, which used the launch to celebrate the 100th birthday of founding president Kim Il-sung and to mark the rise to power of his grandson Kim Jong-un, is now widely expected to press ahead with its third nuclear test to demonstrate its military strength.
The US and Japan said the rocket, which they claimed was a disguised missile test and the North said was to put a satellite into orbit, crashed into the sea after traveling a much shorter distance than a previous North Korean launch.
Its failure immediately raised questions over the North’s reclusive leadership, which maintains one of the world’s largest standing armies, but cannot feed its people without outside aid, largely from its solitary powerful backer, China.
In a highly unusual move, the North, which still claims success with a 2009 satellite that others say failed, admitted in a state television broadcast seen by its 23 million people that the latest satellite had not made it into orbit.
The failure is the first major and very public challenge for the third of the Kim dynasty to rule North Korea just months into the leadership of a man believed to be in his late 20s.
“It could be indication of subtle change in the North Korean leadership in how they handle these things, something that may be different from the past,” said Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, a thinktank affiliated with South Korean Ministry of Defense.
“It would have been unthinkable for them to admit this kind of failure in the past, something that could be seen as an international humiliation. The decision to come out with the admission had to come from Kim Jong-un,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Taipei, Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) confirmed yesterday that the missile launch had failed, but that it had not caused damage in any neighboring country.
Defying international opposition, North Korea launched the long-range rocket at 6:39am, but a “flying object” broke apart a few minutes after the launch and crashed into the sea, Lo said.
The Taiwanese military had been closely monitoring the process leading up to the launch of the “Unha-3” (Galaxy-3) long-range rocket from North Korea’s west coast in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri, and would continue to follow developments and gather intelligence, Lo said.
Asked whether Taiwan’s Patriot anti-missile systems were on standby to respond to the launch, Lo limited his answer to saying that an emergency response task force had completed its mission.
Executive Yuan spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said the government would continue to monitor the situation closely.
Regional security and stability are necessary conditions for the development of all countries in the area and all are for ensuring peace continues, Yang said.
The government opposed any act that could threaten or impact regional security and stability and urged North Korea to abide by international norms and stop any actions that could escalate regional tension.
North Korea should abide by UN Resolution 1874, adopted unanimously by the Security Council in June 2009 that forbids it from carrying out ballistic missile test launches and honor its commitment, made on Feb. 29, to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and other activities at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.