N. Korea springs surprise with rocket launch

WASHINGTON — North Korea’s successful launch of a long-range rocket caught the world by surprise after the secretive regime in Pyongyang claimed technical issues had caused a delay. It drew immediate condemnation from the U.S.

North Korea declared the launch of a rocket and satellite a success early Wednesday local time. Three hours later, the U.S. military confirmed that an object appeared to achieve orbit.

The White House called it a “highly provocative act.”

On Saturday, North Korea had widened the dates during which it might conduct the launch of its Unha-3 rocket, citing a technical problem. Washington says the launch is a cover for testing technology for missiles that could be used to strike the United States. The previous four attempts all failed.

“It was a surprise in terms of the timing,” said Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst with the RAND think tank. “They had talked about postponing for a week. To recover so quickly from technical problems suggests they have gotten good at putting together a missile.”

North Korea has also conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, deepening international concern over its capabilities, although it is not believed to have mastered how to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

The U.S., Japan and South Korea last week vowed to seek further U.N. Security Council action if the North conducted a launch. It remained to be seen whether Russia and China, the North’s main ally, would agree to further sanctions.

Victor Cha, a Korea expert at Georgetown University and a former White House policy director for Asia, said a successful launch was a major national security concern for the United States.

He said there would still be technical hurdles for the North to overcome, particularly in terms of getting a rocket to re-enter the atmosphere, but it would mean that North Korea is able to launch a long-range ballistic missile — the first rival state to the U.S. do so since the Soviet Union and China.

Rep. Ed Royce, incoming Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the launch showed that new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had no intention of giving up his nuclear weapons program. Royce also criticized U.S. policy toward Pyongyang, calling it a “long-term failure.”

“The Obama administration’s approach continues to be unimaginative and moribund. We can either take a different approach, or watch as the North Korean threat to the region and the U.S. grows,” Royce said in a statement.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and others.

This tale goes full circle

Courthouse courier’s stolen bicycle is recovered with the help of a marshal.

Pair now face federal charges in pot shop heist

They are being prosecuted on robbery, drugs and weapons violations.

R U testing RUC?

The state has started its pilot of pay-per-mile taxes.

‘They understand us’: Explorer Middle students dig ‘The Club’

The Boys & Girls Club provides a growing on-site, after-school program in south Everett.

Driver hospitalized after I-5 rollover crash near Arlington

A medical problem is believed to have caused the accident.

Lynnwood plans $12M in sewer improvements

The city wants to be ready for an anticipated population boom around the mall and light rail.

Man struck, killed by Everett Transit bus Friday night

He was in the roadway between 75th Street SE and Beverly Boulevard when he was hit, police said.

Mom gives her $25,000 windfall to Marysville high schools

Among the beneficiaries is the drama club, which gets much-needed audio equipment.

Most Read