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(LEAD) N. Korea's satellite achieves orbit: Defense Ministry

2016/02/09 12:58

(ATTN: UPDATES with more information)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- The satellite North Korea launched into space earlier this week has achieved orbit, but whether it is operating normally has not been verified, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

On Sunday, the North launched a rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, but the outside world views it as a cover for testing the country's intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

The North Korean rocket is the same shape as the Unha-3 rocket the communist country launched in December 2012, an official at the Ministry of National Defense said in an analysis of the recent North Korean test.

The official said that the three-stage rocket successfully separated all of its three stages before putting the satellite into orbit.

Right after the rocket lifted off at the Dongchang-ri launch site in the northwest, South Korea's Aegis destroyer detected the rocket shedding the first stage in the Yellow Sea and the pairing in waters southwest of Jeju Island.

But the radar lost track of the rocket at the pairing separation stage.

The official said the second stage may have fallen in waters near the Philippines, citing the result of a simulation analysis.

With the latest launch, the North is presumed to be in possession of a long-range missile with a range of 12,000 kilometers, the ministry said in its analysis of the recent North Korean test.

Still, the country has not achieved the critical "re-entry" technology needed to bring a launched missile back into the atmosphere, according to the ministry.