Cost of rocket could have fueled the nation

By AFP, Newstalk ZB

2012 file photo, a North Korean soldier stands in front of the country's Unha-3 rocket, slated for liftoff between April 12-16, at a launching site in Tongchang-ri. Photo / AP
2012 file photo, a North Korean soldier stands in front of the country's Unha-3 rocket, slated for liftoff between April 12-16, at a launching site in Tongchang-ri. Photo / AP

It is reported that North Korea spent $US850 million on the launch of its failed rocket, which is enough to feed millions of people in the impoverished country.

The cost was disclosed in restricted documents seen by London's The Daily Telegraph and the project has been condemned as another of North Korea's "idolisation projects".

The rocket launch was likely to destroy a February 29 accord between North Korea and the United States that would ship U.S. food aid to the impoverished North in exchange for a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests, as well as a suspension of nuclear work at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility. The U.S. says plans to provide food to the North are already on hold.

New Zealand condemns rocket launch

New Zealand has added its voice to international condemnation of North Korea's rocket launch.

Foreign minister Murray McCully said that despite the country's claim that the launch was for peaceful purposes, it violated UN Security Council Resolutions, aggravated tensions and undermines attempts to build peace and stability, Newstalk ZB reported.

He urged North Korea to abide by its obligations under those resolutions, cease its provocations and take steps to dismantle its nuclear program.

An expert on North Korea said he believed the country was trying to stand up to the US with today's long-range rocket launch.

Retired Victoria University academic Dr Tim Beal said the United States and North Korea made an agreement earlier this year in which the Americans promised food aid in exchange for no long-distance missile launches.

He said North Korea was saying two things to the Americans: "We need to negotiate because they are getting stronger, we'd be able to attack if you attack us and saying that you have to respect our sovereignty."

Weapon of mass dysfunction

North Korea launched its long range rocket at 7.39am local time (10.39am NZT) - but it appears the launch was not successful. A US official told CNN the rocket launch had failed. The rocket made it off the launch pad, however it may have fallen apart soon after.

North Korea says the release of the Unha-3 (Galaxy-3) rocket - ostensibly carrying a satellite payload - was timed to coincide with Sunday's centenary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

Western critics see the launch as a thinly veiled ballistic missile test, banned by United Nations resolutions.

"North Korea launched a long-range rocket at 07:39 am,'' a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The ignition of the rocket was seen from a US satellite watching the launch.

Japanese officials told Japan's NHK World the US Army detected heat around the launch pad, but there is no evidence of a flight path.

Japanese defence minister Naoki Tanaka told media a projectile was launched and it flew for a minute, but may have fallen into the sea, NHK World reported.

Tanaka did not specify where the rocket landed, but there had been no damage to Japanese territory.

Asian countries on full alert

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his country was on full alert, while urging North Korea to show "self-restraint until the last minute".

"But we want to be fully prepared for any possible contingency," Noda said, after ordering the deployment of anti-missile batteries on land and at sea to shoot down the rocket if it threatens Japanese territory.

Like Japan, the Philippines ordered flights to divert to avoid being in the Pacific area where debris from the rocket might fall. The UN's maritime agency has also warned shipping to be on alert.

- AFP

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