12
Dec

By Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger

This photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean technicians monitoring the launch of an Unha-3 rocket carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, or Shining Star-3, into orbit on Wednesday.

North Korea appeared to have put what it said was a satellite into orbit on Wednesday, a boost for the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, in his struggle to be hailed at home as a worthy successor to his father and to be regarded as a serious rival by the United States and its allies in the region.

With the surprise launch on Wednesday morning of a rocket that flew beyond the Philippines and apparently put an object into orbit, North Korea showed that after a series of failures it was clearing key technical hurdles toward mastering the technology needed to build an intercontinental ballistic missile, analysts said.

The launch prompted the United States and its two main Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, to demand further United Nations sanctions on North Korea. But it was far from clear how far China, the North’s main ally, might be prepared to go in joining that push.

China said that it “regrets” the launch, the first time it has used that word in the context of the North’s rocket program. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, also said that North Korea’s right to a peaceful space program was “subject to limitations by relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions,” somewhat tougher language than China has used on that subject in the past.

“North Korea, as a member of the United Nations, has the obligation to abide by relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” Mr. Hong said at a regular briefing in Beijing. But he declined to say whether North Korea had lived up to that obligation or whether China had received advance notice that the launch would happen Wednesday.

In North Korea, the apparent success gave Mr. Kim a propaganda boon. After state television announced the “important news” that the Unha-3 rocket had put the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, or Shining Star-3, into orbit, government vehicles with loudspeakers rolled through the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, blaring the news, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. The Associated Press, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, reported dancing in the streets. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on December 12, 2012.

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