North Korea has announced that a long-range rocket has successfully put an Earth observation satellite into orbit, just a month after the reclusive country carried out its fourth nuclear test. The launch is certain to heighten tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The announcement was made at noon local time during a special news broadcast on state-run television, just two hours after foreign governments reported the launch of a long-range missile. Japan, which earlier said it could shoot down the missile, did not act on its threat.
In a written statement released just after noon, North Korea’s Aerospace Development Administration said the Earth observation satellite, which has been called Kwangmyongsong-4, was successfully put into Earth’s orbit after blasting off on a Kwangmyongsong rocket.
The launch took place at 9 a.m. local time at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea’s west coast, and the National Aerospace Development Administration said it took just 9 minutes and 46 seconds for the satellite to enter its preset orbit.
But despite North Korea’s claim that it only launched a satellite, members of the international community have denounced the move as a long-range missile test in disguise, much like the December 2012 launch of a weather satellite that was equally condemned.
In Sunday’s statement, however, North Korea claimed that it was “legitimately exercising the right to use space for independent and peaceful purposes.” It also pledged to launch more satellites in the future, despite UN Security Council resolutions that demand North Korea does not conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology.
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