North Korea successfully launches long-range rocket

Updated 13 December 2012
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North Korea successfully launches long-range rocket

SEOUL: North Korea fired a long-range rocket Wednesday days before the first anniversary of its former ruler’s death, magnifying the threat posed by the nuclear-armed state and provoking outrage from the US.
Regional US allies were also angered and even China expressed concern at the successful launch by its wayward communist ally — while also calling on all sides to avoid “stoking the flames.”
The launch triggered plans for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, which has imposed round after round of sanctions against North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.
North Korea insisted the mission was not a banned intercontinental missile test but was designed to place a scientific satellite in orbit, and said it had achieved all its objectives.
“The satellite has entered the orbit as planned,” Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement repeated later in a triumphant special broadcast on state television.
North American Aerospace Defense Command officials said the launch appeared to have successfully put an object in orbit.
Masao Okonogi, a professor of Korean politics at Keio University, said the launch would thrust North Korea close to the top of Washington’s national security agenda.
“Putting a satellite into orbit means that you have technology to get a warhead to a targeted area. Now, North Korea is becoming not only a threat to the neighboring countries but also a real threat to the United States,” Okonogi said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was believed to be keen that the launch fall close to the first anniversary of the death of his father and former leader Kim Jong-Il on December 17.
KCNA hailed it as a “ground-breaking” event that paid tribute to the late Kim’s vision and leadership.
The launch took many observers by surprise, coming after many experts said North Korea appeared to be running into technical problems caused by the bitter winter weather.
A previous launch of the same Unha-3 rocket in April had ended in embarrassing failure, with the carrier exploding shortly after take-off.
Success this time carries profound security implications, marking a major advance in North Korea’s ability to mate an intercontinental ballistic missile capability with its nuclear weapons programme.
In October, North Korea had said it already possessed rockets capable of striking the US mainland — a claim that many analysts at the time dismissed as bluster.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor issued a scathing statement that accused North Korea of once again tearing up the international rulebook.
“North Korea’s launch today... is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council resolutions ... and undermines the global non-proliferation regime,” he said.
Unusually China — North Korea’s sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider — responded relatively quickly with a statement that pressed the country to abide by UN Security Council resolutions.
But in a commentary, state news agency Xinhua also decried “bellicose rhetoric and gestures” by all concerned, and defended North Korea’s right to explore space.
“All parties concerned should stay cool-headed and refrain from stoking the flames so as to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control,” it said.
Russia labelled Pyongyang’s defiance of UN resolutions as “unacceptable” and warned the launch would have a “negative effect” on regional stability.
North Korea is banned from carrying out missile tests under UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang’s two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Japan’s government said it “cannot tolerate” the “extremely regrettable” launch, and South Korea’s government convened an emergency meeting of its National Security Council.
“This is a threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and around the world,” Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan said.
The UN Security Council said it would meet Wednesday, with one Western diplomat predicting a “strong response.”
Pyongyang put the timing of the launch at 9:49 a.m. (0049 GMT) and said the satellite was deployed in orbit nearly 10 minutes later.
The first and second stages fell in the sea west and southwest of the Korean Peninsula, while the third splashed down 300 kilometers (188 miles) east of the Philippines.
US and South Korean officials said it would take time to fully analyze the entire launch and determine its overall success.
North Korea had originally provided a December 10-22 launch window, but extended that by a week on Monday when a “technical deficiency” was discovered.
While the United States and its allies look to ratchet up pressure at the UN, much will depend on the stance taken by veto-wielding member China.
“China sets the maximum response level in the Security Council when it comes to North Korea,” said a senior South Korean government official.


Rights court dismisses Breivik’s complaint about jail conditions

Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence for the July 2011 massacre of 77 people. (Lise Aaserud via Reuters)
Updated 2 min 13 sec ago
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Rights court dismisses Breivik’s complaint about jail conditions

STRASBOURG: The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday dismissed a complaint by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik over his prison conditions, ending a long-running saga that kept him in the public eye, tormenting his victims.
Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence for the July 2011 massacre of 77 people, most of them teenagers gunned down while attending a Labour Party youth camp on the small island of Utoeya.
The far-right, anti-Islam extremist took his case to the ECHR after Norway’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal last year against a ruling that his near-isolation in a three-room cell respected his human rights.
His lawyer argued that the prison conditions breached articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the former prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment, the latter guarantees a right to privacy and family life.
“His state (of mind) is deteriorating,” his lawyer Oystein Storrvik told AFP. “He is no longer able to study for example.”
But the court based in Strasbourg said that “its examination of the case did not reveal any violations of the Convention, and rejected the application as inadmissible for being manifestly ill-founded.”
Norwegian officials have repeatedly rejected allegations that Breivik is isolated, arguing that he is treated as a “VIP prisoner” and has regular contact with prison staff, his lawyer and visitors.
He has the use of three cells, each measuring more than 10 square meters and equipped with a television, computer, DVD player and gym gear. He has no Internet connection, however.
Survivors of the Utoeya massacre expressed satisfaction at the ruling.
“It’s a relief. We’re hoping not to hear his name again for many years to come,” Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, the head of a victims’ support group whose 18-year-old daughter was killed by Breivik, told AFP.
Writing on Twitter, a survivor of the massacre, Tore Remi Christensen, wrote: “The Breivik case is rejected in Strasbourg. Delighted. May he and all those who share his shitty message rot in hell.”
Breivik’s killing spree began on July 22, 2011, when he set off a bomb outside a government building in Oslo, killing eight people.
Disguised as a police officer and armed with a semi-automatic rifle and pistol, he then went to Utoya where the Labour Party was holding a youth camp, killing 69.
During his trial the extremist, who has changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, repeatedly addressed the courts with Nazi salutes and complained about the cold coffee and frozen meals served in prison, among other things.
His sentence can be extended indefinitely if judges determine he remains a threat to society.