While America was celebrating its 230th birthday, North Korea was providing some fireworks of its own:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — North Korea test-fired a long-range missile and five shorter-range rockets early Wednesday, but the closely watched long-range test failed within a minute, U.S. officials said.
The tests began shortly after 3:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. Tuesday ET) and lasted for about five hours.
The Taepodong-2 missile, which some analysts believed capable of hitting the western United States, failed after about 40 seconds, U.S. officials said.
Reaction from the United States was fast, and angry:
A statement from the White House said the United States “strongly condemns” the launches and North Korea’s “unwillingness to heed calls for restraint from the international community.”
“We are consulting with international partners on next steps,” the statement said.
“This provocative act violates a standing moratorium on missile tests to which the North had previously committed.”
And this morning’s events make clear that the North Koreans aren’t done with the ineffectual, yet provacative actions:
North Korea test-fired another missile today, at least its seventh such launch in 48 hours, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo.
Koizumi, speaking this morning, also said he could not rule out further launches, said Japan’s Kyodo News Agency.
The Japanese, are understandably concerned about these launches, and have reacted accordingly:
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo was likely to impose economic sanctions against North Korea in response to the missile tests; Japanese authorities said they would begin by banning North Korean ships from Japanese ports for six months or more.
I agree with others who have said that this launch was, in many ways, a publicity stunt. The North Koreans were hoping to make a statement by launching these missiles, especially the Taepodong-2 on the 4th of July and the same day the Space Shuttle Discovery returned to orbit. In fact, one of the launches apparently occurred within minutes of Discovery’s liftoff. Clearly, though, they weren’t planning on the launch failing the way that it has. That has to have turned a potential headline grabbing event into another embaressment for the North Koreans.