Dec. 12 - North Korea successfully launches a rocket, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday (December 12), boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents. The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labelled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States. The rocket was launched just before 10 a.m. (0100 GMT), according to defence officials in South Korea and Japan, and was more successful than a rocket launched in April that flew for less than two minutes. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said that it "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit", the first time an independent body has verified North Korean claims. North Korea followed what it said was a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the U.N. Security Council to stiffen sanctions that it originally imposed in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test. North Korea is banned from developing nuclear and missile-related technology under U.N. resolutions, although Kim Jong-un, the youthful head of state who took power a year ago, is believed to have continued the state's "military first" programmes put in place by his late father, Kim Jong-il. North Korea hailed the launch as celebrating the prowess of all three members of the Kim family to rule since it was founded in 1948. "At a time when great yearnings and reverence for Kim Jong-il pervade the whole country, its scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out his behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung," its KCNA news agency said. Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather, was North Korea's first leader. The United States condemned the launch as "provocative" and a breach of U.N. rules, while Japan's U.N. envoy called for a Security Council meeting. However, diplomats say further tough sanctions are unlikely from the Security Council as China, the North's only major ally, will oppose them. U.S intelligence has linked North Korea with missile shipments to Iran. Newspapers in Japan and South Korea have reported that Iranian observers were in the North for the launch, something Iran has denied. Kim Jong-un, believed to be 29 years old, took power when his father died on Dec. 17 last year and experts believe the launch was intended to commemorate the first anniversary of his death. The April launch was timed for the centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung.