North Korean satellite ‘tumbling out of control,’ US officials say

121212-nk-rocket-520a.380;380;7;70;0By Jim Miklaszewski and Alan Boyle

The object that North Korea sent into space early Thursday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle but they still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do.

In a statement, the White House said the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday condemned the launch, calling it a “clear violation” of U.N. resolutions. A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he “deplores” the launch.

North Korea is banned from conducting missile and nuclear tests, under the terms of U.N. sanctions imposed after a series of nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009.

Missile warning systems detected the launch at 7:49 p.m. ET Wednesday. North American Aerospace Defense Command officials said in a statement that the initial indications were that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea and the second stage fell into the Philippine Sea. Japan’s NHK television network said the rocket’s second stage fell minutes after passing near the southern islands of Japan.

North Korea said Wednesday’s launch was an attempt to place a satellite into a pole-to-pole orbit. Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency said that the rocket was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launch Center on the secretive country’s west coast, and that the Kwangmyongsong weather satellite went into orbit as planned.

But U.S. officials say the launch was a thinly veiled attempt to test a three-stage ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the West Coast.

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