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North Korea

North Koreans celebrate contentious rocket launch

Crowds of North Koreans have rallied in the major city Pyongyang to celebrate a rocket launch earlier this week that drew international condemnation. Footage of the launch was aired on state television.

North Korean television on Friday broadcast images of rows of soldiers and civilians filling a central Pyongyang square in freezing temperatures, listening to a string of speeches praising the country's recent rocket launch and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The English-language website state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the North Korean leader had personally overseen Wednesday's rocket launch, which was dubbed "a clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874" by the United Nations at emergency talks.

North Korea celebrates rocket launch

"[Kim Jong Un] stressed the need to continue to launch satellites in the future, too, to develop the country's science, technology and economy," the KCNA agency wrote.

Pyongyang said the launch was designed to place a satellite in orbit, with South Korea, Japan, the US and others countering that the launch constituted a ballistic missile test. The projectile escaped the earth's atmosphere, but it wasn't immediately clear whether it had entered the orbit desired.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Thursday that it recovered debris from the rocket in the Yellow Sea, adding that the defense ministry hoped it could learn about the North's scientific capabilities by studying the wreckage.

The rocket was the first successful launch of its kind conducted by North Korea, after years of failed attempts. Japan's government said on Wednesday that the projectile passed over its southern island of Okinawa.

"The missile that North Korea calls a satellite passed over Okinawa at around 10:01 (0101 UCT). We launched no interception," the government in Tokyo said in a statement.

Kim Jong Un took over from his deceased father Kim Jong Il less than a year ago, he is still in his twenties. The isolated Communist country, subject to a string of international sanctions and still technically at war with South Korea - with the two countries having only signed a 1953 ceasefire - has long sought the status of a space power.

msh/pfd (AFP,dpa, Reuters)

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