In sharp defiance of international opposition, a North Korean rocket launch has successfully placed an object into orbit. The action was widely condemned by the international community, amid fears that the launch was merely a front for a ballistic missile test and concerns that the rogue state’s new satellite could act as a platform for a nuclear attack or EMP strike.
The rocket launch took place at 9 a.m. local time, on Sunday, February 7, according to reports from North Korean state news agency KCNA. The launch came earlier than expected, with Fox News and other agencies reporting an estimated launch window between February 8 and 10 just a few days ago.
National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice issued a statement shortly after the rocket launch, referring to it as a “destabilizing and provocative action” that was a “flagrant violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
According to Fox News, the United States, Japan, and other nations made preparations ahead of the launch to shoot down the rocket, or rocket debris, in the event that such action became necessary.
In a statement made to CNN after the successful launch, a senior U.S. defense official indicated that the rocket was tracked as it passed over the Yellow Sea, but that it was determined that it “did not pose a threat to the U.S. or our allies.”
This isn’t the first time that North Korea has attempted to launch a satellite, and earlier attempts were also framed by the United States and others as veiled ballistic missile tests. The previous attempts met with varying levels of success. One launch in 2012 placed an out of control satellite in orbit, according to the Associated Press, and another exploded 90 seconds after launch.
U.S. Strategic Command told CNN that this latest rocket launch successfully placed a satellite in orbit.
“Initial observations, available on the publicly-available website Space-Track.org, indicate these two objects — NORAD catalog identification numbers 41332 and 41333 — are at an inclination of 97.5 degrees.”
According to CNN, the two objects are likely to be the satellite and the third stage of the rocket booster.
Although North Korea stated that the rocket launch was meant for peaceful, scientific purposes, and it appears to have successfully placed a satellite in orbit, international concerns that the launch was a veiled ballistic missile test remain.
In response to the rocket launch, the U.N. Security Council announced that a meeting would be convened in New York at 11 a.m. local time, Sunday February 7, to determine an appropriate international response.
Ahead of the meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement calling the launch “deeply deplorable” and accused North Korea of “using ballistic missile technology in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions.”
According to the statement, the Secretary-General’s goal is to achieve “verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”
By successfully launching a rocket into orbit, North Korea further demonstrated its ballistic missile capabilities.
In a press briefing last April, the U.S. commander of NORAD, Admiral Bill Gortney, expressed concerns about North Korea’s ability to attack the United States with a nuclear weapon.
“Our assessment is that they have the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland. And that’s the way we think. That’s our assessment of the process. We haven’t seen them test the KN-08 yet and we’re waiting to do that. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will fly before they test it.”
According to the BBC, the KN-08 is a true ICBM that still remains to be tested. Unlike this most recent rocket launch, the KN-08 utilizes a mobile launcher. However, it is possible that this launch provided North Korea with valuable data that could assist in the successful deployment of the KN-08 in the future.
In addition to nuclear ICBM fears, others have raised concerns that a North Korean satellite could provide a launch platform for attacks against the United States or its allies. During the GOP debate that took place shortly after the rocket launch, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz warned that the satellite could allow North Korea to launch an EMP strike against the United States.
Last month, North Korea claimed that it successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
Are you worried that this rocket launch could pave the way for a future nuclear or EMP attack, or should North Korea be allowed to launch satellites like the United States and other nations?
[Photo by AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon]