5 Apr :North Korea launched a long-range rocket over Japan on Sunday, drawing swift international condemnation and triggering an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Washington said it would take steps to let the reclusive North know it could not threaten regional security. South Korea called the launch of the rocket, seen by many powers as a disguised missile test, a ”reckless” act.
”The launch by the North Koreans is seen as a provocative act and will prompt the United States to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it cannot threaten the safety and security of (other) countries with impunity,” State Department spokesman Fred Lash told reporters in a conference call.
Japan said it stopped monitoring the Taepodong-2 rocket after it had passed 2,100 km (1,305 miles) east of Tokyo, indicating the launch had been a success. In its only previous test flight, in July 2006, the rocket blew apart 40 seconds after launch.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a government official in Seoul as saying the rocket appeared to have carried a satellite, which Pyongyang had insisted was its plan.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said even if the object launched was a satellite, it would violate UN resolutions on North Korean ballistic missile activity.
In New York, Japan’s UN ambassador requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the launch. A diplomat said a meeting would be held later on Sunday.
”It is extremely regrettable that North Korea went ahead with the launch … and we protest strongly,” Kawamura said.
Analysts said the launch may help North Korean leader Kim Jong-il shore up support after a suspected stroke in August raised questions of his grip on power and bolster his hand in using military threats to win concessions from global powers.
The United States, South Korea and Japan had said the launch would actually be the test of the Taepodong-2, which is designed to carry a warhead as far as Alaska. It has an estimated range of 6,700 km (4,200 miles).
Impoverished North Korea, which for years has used military threats to wring concessions from regional powers, has said it was putting a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful space programme and threatened war if the rocket was intercepted.
Chronology of North Korea’s missile program
A timeline of developments in North Korea’s missile program:
*Aug. 31, 1998: North Korea fires suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, calling it a satellite.
* Sept. 13, 1999: North Korea pledges to freeze long-range missile tests.
* June 2001: North Korea warns it will reconsider missile test moratorium if Washington doesn’t resume contacts aimed at normalizing relations.
July 2001: U.S. State Department reports North Korea developing long-range missile.
* September 2002: North Korea pledges in summit talks with Japan to extend its moratorium on missile tests beyond 2003.
* Jan. 10, 2003: North Korea announces withdrawal from Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
* March 10, 2003: North Korea fires a land-to-ship missile off east coast into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
* October 2003: North Korea fires two land-to-ship missiles.
* May 2004: North Korea reaffirms its missile moratorium in summit talks with Japan.
* May 2005: North Korea fires a short-range missile into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
* March 8, 2006: North Korea fires two short-range missiles.
* June 18, 2006: North Korea vows to increase its "military deterrent" to cope with what it calls U.S. attempts to provoke war.
* July 5, 2006: North Korea launches seven missiles into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, including a long-range Taepodong-2.
* July 15, 2006: U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1695 demanding North Korea halt missile program.
* Oct. 9, 2006: North Korea conducts underground nuclear test blast after citing "extreme threat of a nuclear war" from U.S.
* Oct. 15, 2006: U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 1718 condemning test, imposing sanctions and banning North Korea from activities related to its nuclear weapons program, including "their means of delivery and related materials."
* July 14, 2007: North Korea shuts down its main Yongbyon reactor, later starts disabling it.
* June 27, 2008: North Korea destroys cooling tower at Yongbyon.
* Sept. 19, 2008: North Korea says it is restoring a key atomic reactor.
* Oct. 11, 2008: U.S. removes North Korea from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.
* Feb. 15: North Korea claims it has the right to "space development."
* Feb. 23: South Korea says North Korea has a new type of medium-range ballistic missile capable of reaching northern Australia and Guam.
* March 11: North Korea declares satellite launch will take place between April 4-8.
* April 5: North Korea launches long-range rocket from its base at Musundan-ri on the country’s northeast coast.