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North Korea says rocket launch failed due to midair explosion

It occurred dring first-stage rocket flight, according to the Korean Central News Agency

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing the test fire of the 240mm multiple rocket launcher system in an undisclosed location in North Kore on May 10. Photo by EKCNA/EPA-EFE
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing the test fire of the 240mm multiple rocket launcher system in an undisclosed location in North Kore on May 10. Photo by EKCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Tuesday that its latest attempt to launch a new rocket carrying a reconnaissance satellite ended in failure due to a midair explosion during the flight of its first-stage rocket this week.

The vice general director of the North's National Aerospace Technology Administration said the rocket carrying the satellite, the Malligyong-1-1, exploded after it lifted off from the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground on the country's northwest coast on Monday, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

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The launch came just hours after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang held a trilateral summit in Seoul and reaffirmed their commitment to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.

It defied international warnings and criticism that any launch using ballistic missile technology, including that of a space launch vehicle, runs afoul of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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The launch failed due to the air blast of the new-type satellite carrier rocket during the first-stage flight," the KCNA reported, citing the NATA official.

A preliminary examination by experts from the North's launch preparatory committee concluded that the "accident" was attributable to the operational reliability of a new "liquid oxygen plus petroleum" engine, the official said.

The other causes of the failure will also be examined, according to the KCNA.

Shortly after the launch, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that the North's rocket ended up as "multiple pieces of debris" in an indication that the satellite launch went wrong.

JCS detected the rocket being launched southward over the Yellow Sea from the Tongchang-ri area in the country's northwest at about 10:44 p.m. on Monday.

A preliminary assessment by onsite experts from the North's launch preparation team suggested that the "accident" appears attributable to the operational credibility of a "liquid oxygen plus petroleum" engine, the deputy chief of the aerospace administration was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

"(They) will also look into problems that could be other causes [of the failure]," the KCNA said in the report.

Shortly after the launch, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the North's rocket ended up as "multiple pieces of debris" in an indication that the satellite launch plan went wrong.

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JCS detected the rocket being launched southward over the Yellow Sea from the Tongchang-ri area in the country's northwest at about 10:44 p.m. on Monday.

Pyongyang had earlier notified Japan of a plan to launch a satellite sometime before June 4 and designated three areas, where rocket debris was to have fallen, as a precaution for safety. The liftoff came on the first day of the eight-day launch window.

The recalcitrant regime has planned to launch three satellites into orbit this year. In November, it successfully put its first military spy satellite into orbit.

Soon after the launch, the presidential National Security Office briefed President Yoon on it, according to his office. National Security Advisor Chang Ho-jin presided over a meeting of senior presidential security officials.

The participants at the meeting condemned the launch as a violation of UNSC resolutions and a provocative act that threatens peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia and in the international community, according to the office.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command criticized the North's rocket launch, saying it is assessing the situation in close coordination with allies and partners.

"We are aware of the DPRK's May 27 launch using ballistic missile technology, which, is a brazen violation of multiple unanimous UNSC resolutions, raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond," the command said in a statement.

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DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

On Monday, the South's military warned it would take "powerful" measures in response to the North's launch plan, and staged air drills, involving advanced fighter jets, near the inter-Korean border in a show of force.

The rocket launch came despite speculation that deepening military cooperation between the North and Russia might have helped Pyongyang advance its space rocket launch capabilities and other military programs.

Observers said the North appears intent to secure intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets as it is far behind the allies in ISR capabilities despite its focus on developing an array of formidable weapons systems, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles and tactical nuclear arms.

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