Seoul: South Korean’s military has seen a rocket launched by North Korea successfully entering into space, regarding it as a intercontinental ballistic missile similar to the Unha-3 rocket test-fired in late 2012.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on the launch to the parliamentary defence committee on Sunday, according to Rep. Yun Hu-deok of the main opposition Minju Party, a member of the committee, Xinhua reported.
The South Korean military estimated that North Korean rocket was a three-stage ICBM similar to the Unha-3 rocket, launched by Pyongyang in December 2012.
The rocket is believed to have a range of about 5,500-10,000 km. The first stage of the rocket fell in waters near South Korea’s western border island of Baengnyeong, with the second stage landing off the southwest of the southern resort island of Jeju.
Where the third stage landed has not been identified as it disappeared from radars of South Korea’s military.
To track the North Korean rocket after the launch, South Korea had deployed surveillance assets, including Aegis-equipped destroyer, ground-based Green Pine radar and Peace Eye airborne early warning and control aircraft.
No civilian damage in South Korea has been reported from aircrafts and shipping. The rocket did not fly over South Korea’s territory.
North Korea’s state media reported on Sunday that it had successfully launched a Kwangmyongsong-4 earth observation satellite into orbit just nine minutes and 46 seconds after the launch at 9.30 a.m. (local time).
Pyongyang has claimed the rocket launch is a space programme for peaceful purpose, but Seoul has denounced it as ballistic missile development. Rockets and ballistic missiles have lots of overlapping technologies.
The launch came a day after North Korea announced its revised plan to move up the launch window to February 7-14 from the previous February 8-25.
On January 6, Pyongyang said it had tested what it claimed was its first hydrogen bomb in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea is banned under UN Security Council resolutions from testing a rocket by use of ballistic missile technology and staging a nuclear test. Pyongyang detonated atomic devices in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
South Korea’s presidential office criticised the launch, saying that it came in defiance of repeated warnings from the international community. Seoul called for tougher new sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council.
President Park Geun-hye convened an emergency meeting of the national security council, and Seoul’s foreign ministry requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss counter-measures.
South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo held a meeting with General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the US Forces in Korea (USFK), saying Pyongyang’s missile launch was a direct challenge to the international community as it came amid ongoing discussions at the UN Security Council about new sanctions against Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.
Han stressed the need for additional pressures on North Korea to make it recognise a fact that the country cannot survive unless it gives up nuclear weapons. He called for close cooperation between Seoul and Washington in response to a series of recent North Korean provocations.