U.S. officials told NBC News, that the object that North Korea sent into space early Thursday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth.
The officials said that the object is indeed some kind of space vehicle but they still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do.
In a statement, the White House said that the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the launch, calling it a “clear violation” of U.N. resolutions.
North Korea is actually been banned from conducting missile and nuclear tests, under the terms of U.N. sanctions imposed after a series of nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009.
Missile warning systems detected the launch at 7:49 pm ET on Wednesday.
North American Aerospace Defense Command officials said in a statement that the initial indications were that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea and the second stage fell into the Philippine Sea.
Japan’s NHK television network said that the rocket’s second stage fell just minutes after passing near the southern islands of Japan.
North Korea said that the launch was an attempt to place a satellite into a pole-to-pole orbit.
According to Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency, the rocket was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launch Center on the secretive country’s west coast, and that the Kwangmyongsong weather satellite went into orbit as planned.
However, U.S. officials say that the launch was an attempt to test a three-stage ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the West Coast.
Russia added its voice to the condemnation of the launch and also called on other nations to refrain from further escalating tensions.
“The new rocket launch carried out by North Korea flaunts the opinion of the international community, including calls from the Russian side.”
China said that officials had urged Pyongyang not to launch, and expressed regret that it had taken place.
Japan and South Korea voiced concern as well.
Osamu Fujimura, Japans’s chief secretary, said:
“The Japanese government regards this launch as an act compromising the peace and stability of the region, including Japan.”
The launch shocked many South Koreans because they thought it would not take place until after South Korea’s presidential election on December 19.
Only a day earlier, North Korea hinted that the launch time might have to be readjusted due to weather or a technical problem.
Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst with the RAND think tank, told the Associated Press:
“It was a surprise in terms of the timing. They had talked about postponing for a week. To recover so quickly from technical problems suggests they have gotten good at putting together a missile.”