North Korea Eyes Nuke Test as Satellite Orbits Normally

Pyongyang unveils photos of launch as world slams the move

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 13, 2012 3:56 AM CST

(Newser) – Despite initial reports that North Korea's successfully launched rocket was "tumbling out of control," South Korea now says that it's orbiting normally, though what the space vehicle's purpose is or if it's functioning remains unclear, reports Fox News. Meanwhile, the world is lining up to slam the launch, with even Pyongyang ally China piling on. Kim Jong Un "knows the stakes are high ... and it is really what he does next that matters," says a US official. Pyongyang appeared indifferent, proudly releasing photos of the launch, as Reuters reports that it's eying a nuclear test.

"If sanctions get toughened, the likelihood of North Korea carrying out a nuclear test is high," says an analyst. It would be the country's third such test; one in 2009 came just a month after a previous rocket launch. Satellite photos reveal the country improving access to nuclear testing grounds. The UN Security Council still seems to think it can prevent new tests, Reuters notes. But the North may be looking for "negotiations aimed at slowing down or freezing, but not reversing," the programs, an expert says. In that case, "the US ... will have to provide generous 'aid' as a reward for North Koreans' willingness to slow down."

South Korean protesters tear pictures of Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Il Sung, the late founder of North Korea, during a rally denouncing the rocket launch, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Scientists at the General Satellite Control and Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang watch the launch of the Unha-3 rocket, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.   (AP Photo)
In this monitor screen image taken and released by the Korean Central News Agency, the Unha-3 rocket lifts off from a launch site on the west coast.   (AP Photo/Korea Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
This still frame shows the Unha-3 rocket launch at the North Korean space agency's Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.   (AP Photo via APTN)
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