December 13, 2012 09:30
A rocket fired on Wednesday by North Korea successfully put a satellite into orbit.
That suggests the North now has the technology to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of more than 10,000 km that could reach most of the U.S. mainland, South Korean authorities speculate.
It took the North 14 years since it first tested a long-range missile in 1998. But it remains to be seen whether it will be able to miniaturize nuclear warheads and acquire technology so the missiles can re-enter the atmosphere.
The first-, second-, and third-stage boosters of the rocket were "operating normally," said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Seoul.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement, "Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."
The rocket was launched at 9:49 a.m. and the first-stage booster separated at 9:52 a.m. and fell into waters 138 km west of the Byeonsan Peninsula. The second-stage booster dropped into waters east of the Philippines.
"It's possible that the maximum range of the rocket is longer than 13,000 km, not 10,000 km as originally believed, given that the first-stage booster burned for 160 seconds rather than the 130 seconds initially estimated," a South Korean military source speculated.
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