North Korea said the launch on 12 December put a weather satellite in orbit, but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile. North Korea is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under UN sanctions imposed after nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. The UN security council condemned the latest launch. South Korea retrieved and analysed parts of the first-stage rocket that dropped in the waters off its west coast. “As a result of analysing the material of Unha-3, we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000km in case the warhead is 5-600kg,” a South Korean defence ministry official said. North Korea’s previous missile tests ended in failure. The North has spent decades and scarce resources to try to develop technology capable of striking targets as far away as the US and is working to build a nuclear arsenal. But experts believe it is still years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturise a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile. South Korean defence officials said there was no confirmation whether the North had the re-entry technology needed for a payload to survive the heat and vibration without disintegrating. Despite international condemnation, the launch this month was seen as a boost domestically to the credibility of the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, who took power after his father died last year. Apparently encouraged by the euphoria, the fledgling supreme leader called for the development and launching of “a variety of more working satellites” and “carrier rockets of bigger capacity”, at a banquet in Pyongyang on Friday  he hosted for those who contributed to the liftoff, according to North Korean state media. (The Guardian).]]>

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