Bloomberg News

South Korea Stops Search for North’s Rocket Debris

April 17, 2012

South Korea will call off its search for debris from last week’s failed North Korean rocket launch a day after the United Nations expanded the sanctions list for the totalitarian regime in its latest act of censure.

The military will halt recovery operations today at 5 p.m. local time after four days of unsuccessful attempts, said a defense ministry official who declined to be named, citing ministry policy. Ten ships couldn’t locate any fragments due to murky waters and strong currents, the official said. Yonhap News earlier reported the decision to end the search.

The UN Security Council censured North Korea yesterday for firing the rocket and updated its list of sanctioned goods. A South Korean minister said last week the botched launch increases the likelihood that North Korea will test an atomic weapon as it did in 2009 following a similar incident.

South Korea has repeatedly urged the North to halt “further provocations that undermine peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung Jae said yesterday in a statement on the ministry’s website. Japan and Australia joined the South today in welcoming the UN statement.

The long-range rocket, which was fired on April 13 to put a satellite into orbit, exploded shortly after liftoff over the Yellow Sea, scattering debris off the South Korean coast. The missile reached an altitude of 151 kilometers (93 miles) before disintegrating into 20 pieces and falling into the ocean 100 to 150 kilometers off the western coast, South Korean Major General Shin Won Sik said.

‘Bad Behavior’

The launch defied weeks of international condemnations and a February agreement to suspend missile and nuclear tests in exchange for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid. President Barack Obama canceled the food assistance in line with his March pledge to not reward “bad behavior” and to sternly respond to any provocation.

Chances are “very high” that new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may order another attack or a nuclear test to overcome the embarrassment of the failed rocket launch, South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Lim Kwan Bin said last week at an emergency parliamentary committee meeting.

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, the top American military commander in the Pacific, told reporters today in Seoul that the U.S.-South Korea alliance is “continually looking at all options” in responding to a possible North Korean nuclear test, according to U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Kim Young Kyu. Locklear was answering a question about whether surgical strikes were being considered, Kim said.

IAEA Report

North Korea will cancel its March 16 invitation to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to survey its nuclear facilities, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported yesterday, citing an unidentified diplomatic official. South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung Nam said yesterday he can’t confirm the report, adding that the status of inspection discussions is unknown.

The Security Council ordered its sanctions committees to “designate additional entities and items” within 15 days that could help North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, the 15- member body said yesterday in its presidential statement, a step below a resolution that requires a vote.

Two UN resolutions are already in place after North Korea detonated atomic devices in 2006 and 2009. The measures call for stepped-up inspection of suspect air and sea cargo and seek to block funding for nuclear, missile and proliferation work.

UN ‘Process’

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Asia Kurt Campbell yesterday declined to comment on whether the U.S. will seek new sanctions, saying in Seoul that he will “let the process play out” at the UN. Campbell was meeting South Korean officials to discuss “potential next steps” to the rocket launch.

Kim, who delivered his first public speech on April 15 since taking power in December, did not address the rocket failure, instead announcing that the world cannot threaten or blackmail his “undefeated” 1.2 million-strong military.

A South Korean intelligence report warned a week ago that recent activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site is consistent with preparation for previous atomic device detonations.

North Korea will begin developing a larger rocket to put a satellite into orbit as part of a five-year space development program to improve its economy, Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Tokyo, reported yesterday, citing an unidentified official at North Korea’s Committee for Space Technology.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- Jasper Kim, founder and chief executive officer of Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, talks about North Korea's third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un and the nation's failed rocket launch. North Korea won’t be bullied by its nuclear-armed enemies, Kim Jong Un said in his first public address at a military parade yesterday as South Korea warned that his regime may conduct an atomic test. Jasper Kim speaks from Seoul with Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television's "On the Move Asia." (Source: Bloomberg)

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