N.Korean Rocket Debris Found in S.Korean Waters

The South Korean Navy has found a chunk of debris from a rocket North Korea launched Wednesday.

The Aegis destroyer King Sejong discovered the debris from the North Korean rocket in waters 160 km west of the Byeonsan Peninsula on Wednesday, a Defense Ministry official here said Thursday. "The object is 10 m long and 1.6 m in diameter and presumed to be the fuel tank of the first-stage booster," he added.

It had sunk about 80 m to the bottom of the sea. The Navy sent a salvage unit to the scene to confirm the location. It will dispatch the salvage and rescue ship Cheonghaejin to retrieve it.

Military authorities hope the debris will help them figure out the constituent parts of the liquid fuel, the material of the rocket fuselage, and propulsion technology. The Navy believes it can also retrieve the rocket engine and nozzle in nearby waters.

/Courtesy of the Ministry of Defense /Courtesy of the Ministry of Defense

Meanwhile the Choson Sinbo daily, a North Korean mouthpiece in Japan, on Wednesday admitted, "There is no big technical difference between a space rocket and a ballistic missile.”

Seoul's National Intelligence Service has cast doubt on North Korea's claims that the rocket put a functioning satellite into orbit. "The North claims that the a song praising Kim Il-sung is being transmitted from the satellite, but no such transmission has been detected by South Korea and other countries yet," NIS chief Won Sei-hoon told the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee.

The satellite has failed to reach the 500 km circular orbit as the North originally planned but is flying in an elliptical orbit 494 km above the earth at perigee and 588 km at apogee.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 14, 2012 09:33 KST