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(3rd LD) N. Korea claims rocket launch a success, defies int'l blame
SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea announced Wednesday its long-range rocket launch was a success, claiming that a scientific satellite was put in the Earth's orbit as planned.

   "The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. "The satellite entered its preset orbit."


The KCNA report said the three-stage rocket lifted off at 9:49 a.m. South Korea later confirmed the North's announcement, saying that the rocket's first-stage booster fell into the Yellow Sea and the second stage in waters near the Philippines.

   North Korea said in the KCNA report that the rocket launch was carried out at an instruction of late leader Kim Jong-il" who died about a year ago. His son, Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s took over after his father's death.

   Despite international condemnations that the launch was a cover for testing missile technology banned by the United Nations, the KCNA stressed that it was only for peaceful purposes.

   "The scientific and technological satellite is fitted with survey and communications devices essential for the observation of the earth," the report said.

   The report also indicated that the launch was intended to mark the Dec. 17, 2011 death of late leader Kim Jong-il as well as the centenary this year of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

   "Scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out his (Kim Jong-il's) behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung," it said.

   In a separate report, the KCNA said North Korea has "the right to use outer space" in accordance with international law, adding that the rocket launch was "not one over which the U.N. Security Council can say this or that," citing comments by Pyongyang's foreign ministry spokesman.

   The report quoted an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman as saying that the world is showing "sinister" signs by calling "the launch for peaceful purposes" a violation of the U.N. Security Council.

   Stating that it was the United States "overreaction" to its April missile launch that drove the communist country "to reexamine the nuclear issue as a whole," the spokesman called on the world "to remain cool so as to prevent the situation from developing to undesirable direction."

   The spokesman also vowed that his country will continue to exercise its right to put satellites into orbit, saying that doing so would contribute to "economic construction and improvement of the standard of people's living" in the communist country.


North Korea has long claimed that it has the right to the peaceful use of space and that the rocket launch was aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit.

   But the United States and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan, and even China have denounced the rocket launch as a violation of U.N. resolutions that ban any ballistic missile tests.