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North Korean rocket launch stokes tensions

North Korean rocket launch stokes tensions
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North Korea defied international pressure from the United States, the UN and others when it went ahead with its controversial rocket launch on Friday.

In the end, it turned out to be a public humiliation for the hermit state, with the rocket crashing into the sea not long after lift off.

The failure had a positive effect on financial markets.
But, according to one Russian space expert, Pyongyang is unlikely to give up.

“I’m sure that the North Koreans will go ahead with their space programme, because for them to cancel it would be a blow to their regime, because they claim that their regime created a very favourable environment for the development of science and technology,” said Yuri Karash, from the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.

“If they stop their space programme now it would mean that, in fact, it did not create such favourable conditions for the development of science and technology. So they cannot cancel it for ideological reasons. They will go ahead,” he continued.

For North Korea’s fresh-faced new leader Kim Jong-un, the failed rocket launch will be difficult to digest.

Some analysts believe Pyongyang may hold a nuclear test to make up for the loss of prestige.

“I think the possibility of a nuclear test is quite high,” said Toshimitsu Shigemura from Tokyo’s Waseda University.

“I think there will probably be new sanctions or strengthening of sanctions by the US and South Korea. So North Korea will likely look for ways not to bow to outside pressure and will hold a nuclear test to do so.”

Tensions in the region are long-standing. In 2010, a South Korean warship sank in waters near the disputed sea border with North Korea, claiming dozens of lives. Pyongyang denied any involvement.

In the same year, four people were killed during an attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which also sits close to the disputed maritime area. North Korea admitted responsibility.

International leaders have long been suspicious of North Korea’s nuclear intentions.

Pyongyang will no doubt be watching for any response to its failed rocket launch.

There is pressure for fresh sanctions, but it is likely to avoid those – with Russia and China against such a move.