N Korea rocket more powerful than one fired in 2012 : Seoul

SEOUL : The rocket launched this week by North Korea appeared to be more powerful than one fired in 2012, with an increased range of 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles) which puts most of the US within reach.

The three-stage rocket was confirmed to have put an object into orbit but it has not yet been verified whether the alleged satellite is functioning, a South Korean defence ministry official said on Tuesday.

However, North Korea has not yet mastered key technology needed to turn the rocket into an inter-continental ballistic missile, a re-entry vehicle to protect the warhead from heat, the official said.

The rocket is similar to the Unha-3 launched in December 2012 but is believed to have a range of 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles), 2,000 kilometres more than the older model.

There has been speculation that North Korea might use a much larger rocket this time after having completed work on an extended 67-metre (220-foot) gantry tower capable of handling a launch vehicle twice the size of the 30-metre Unha-3.

The rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite blasted off on Sunday and after the launch, widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test, sparked international condemnations and resulted in an agreement at the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions against the increasingly defiant state.

Agencies

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