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N Korea satellite 'orbiting normally'

13 December 2012, 13:07

 Seoul - The satellite launched by North Korea's long-range rocket is in operational orbit, South Korea's defence ministry said on Thursday, confirming the apparent success of Pyongyang's stated space mission.

The satellite sent into space by the North's Unha-3 rocket on Wednesday, is "orbiting normally", ministry spokesperson Kim Min-Seok told reporters.

"It is not yet known what kind of mission the satellite is conducting. It usually takes two weeks to evaluate whether a satellite is successful. For the time being, it is working normally," Kim said.

North Korea said Wednesday's launch was a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite in space.

Most of the world saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions imposed after the North's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

For the international community, the precise nature of the satellite – along with the question of whether it is operating properly - is largely immaterial.

Condemnation from the UN

The main concern is that the rocket succeeded in delivering its payload successfully, marking an important step forward for Pyongyang's long-range missile programme.

Analysis by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute showed the satellite was moving between 494 and 588km above the Earth - nearly in line with the figures announced by the North on Wednesday, Yonhap news agency said.

The UN Security Council has condemned the launch and warned of possible measures over what the US called a "highly provocative" act.

The council made it clear it considered the North had used proscribed "ballistic missile technology" and highlighted a warning made after a failed launch in April that it could take "action" if there was a new attempt.

Meanwhile, long-time allies the United States and the Philippines on Thursday blasted North Korea's "provocative" rocket launch as a threat to regional security and pledged to strengthen their military ties, AFP reported.

In a statement following bilateral talks attended by top diplomats and security officials, the two countries vowed to boost co-operation in the wake of Pyongyang's move.

Strategic partners

They agreed to bolster joint efforts relating to maritime security, disaster response, law enforcement and cyber-security, and non-proliferation (of nuclear weapons), the statement said.

"The two sides also strongly condemned... [the launch] utilising ballistic missile technology and emphasised that this highly provocative act is in direct violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions," the statement said.

"Given this current threat to regional security, both sides will strengthen and increase their close alliance co-ordination," it said.

The meeting was attended by US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of Defence Mark Lippert and their Filipino counterparts Erlinda Basilio and Pio Batino.

The US considers the Philippines a major non-Nato ally in the Asia Pacific region, where Washington had earlier announced a strategic shift of its forces.

Filipino officials have previously said they hoped the Philippines could play a key role in that pivot, with a former US naval base north of Manila already increasingly accommodating American carriers and submarines.

The meeting also came at a time when the Philippines, along with other Southeast Asian countries, is embroiled in an increasingly tense territorial dispute with China involving territories in the South China Sea.

Washington had earlier warned China against its perceived aggressiveness in staking out its claims.



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