Pyongyang: A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korean officials said on Thursday, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.
Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch they say is nothing but a test of banned ballistic missile technology.
The launch of a three stage rocket similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea`s expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.
The UN Security Council, which has punished North Korea repeatedly for developing its nuclear program, condemned yesterday`s launch and said it will urgently consider "an appropriate response”.
The White House called the launch a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security," and even the North`s most important ally, China, expressed regret.
In Pyongyang, however, pride over the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Koreans clinked beer mugs and danced in the streets to celebrate.
"It`s really good news," North Korean citizen Jon Il Gwang told a news agency as he and scores of other Pyongyang residents poured into the streets after a noon announcement to celebrate the launch by dancing in the snow. "It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space."
The South Korean Defence Ministry said today the satellite is orbiting normally at a speed of 7.6 kilometres per second, though it`s not known what mission it is performing. North Korean space officials say the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.
Defence Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said it usually takes about two weeks to determine whether a satellite works successfully after liftoff. He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defence Command.