(AFP) – Apr 7, 2009
SEOUL (AFP) — A triumphant North Korea on Tuesday broadcast footage of its controversial rocket launch as state press reported Kim Jong-Il wept tears of regret that the money it cost could not have been used to help his people.
The footage seen on South Korean TV showed a three-stage white rocket, bearing the word "Chosun" (Korea), soaring away from the launch site and into the sky.
North Korean state television also broadcast the first moving images of Kim since he reportedly suffered a stroke in August, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
As world powers struggled to struggled to agree on a response, with China and Russia both urging restraint, the North's media boasted of the "historic" achievement of putting into orbit a satellite that was now beaming back patriotic songs.
The United States and its allies say the satellite never made it into space and Sunday's launch was really a ballistic missile test that failed.
Washington is pushing for a stern response from the UN Security Council to condemn what it calls a provocative act, but the world body is split and the United States has hinted it may not insist on a binding resolution.
While the diplomatic wrangling goes on, people in the impoverished nation, which suffers chronic food shortages, were reported to have been in raptures over the launch.
"Chants of jubilation are reverberating throughout the country on the news that our satellite is beaming back the 'Song of General Kim Il-Sung' and the 'Song of General Kim Jong-Il,'" the ruling communist party paper Rodong Sinmun said, referring to the North's founding president and his son.
It reported that Kim Jong-Il "felt regret for not being able to spend more money on the people's livelihoods and was choked with sobs."
"Our people will still understand," it quoted him as saying.
In New York, diplomats said China and Russia, which have veto power on the Security Council, have been pressing for a more muted response to the launch than that demanded by the United States.
As North Korea Tuesday released film footage of the launch, China, the North's closest ally, pointedly refused to condemn the act, saying Pyongyang had the right to the peaceful use of space.
"We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and stay calm to safeguard overall peace and stability," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
She said the Security Council should react in a "prudent" way and that the most pressing concern was resuming six-nation talks on dismantling the North's nuclear programme.
"We call on relevant parties to proceed from the standpoint of the overall interest to maintain a cool-headed calm so as to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the region and promote the six-party talks," she added.
China hosts the talks -- which also involve the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States -- but they have been stalled since last December by a dispute over how to verify the North's nuclear disarmament claims.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said world powers should "avoid any hasty conclusions" over the launch.
News agencies quoted him as saying that while the situation "is a cause of major concern," Moscow wanted to look into it more thoroughly.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the differences, and a senior US official said under cover of anonymity that while the United States wanted a UN response, "the form of it is not what we should be hung up on."
Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN the long-term US aim was to denuclearise the North, which tested an atomic weapon in 2006 for the first time.
Meanwhile South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, quoting Seoul intelligence sources, said the operation had strained the resources of the North's massive but under-funded military.
It said Pyongyang had been unable to track the rocket throughout its entire flight, while a ship which set sail for the Pacific to try to locate debris turned back with mechanical problems.
Seoul had learned that North Korean officials were "busy passing the buck" over the mission's failure, it added.
Still, media here noted that the Taepodong-2 missile travelled some 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) -- double the range that North Korea achieved with a Taepodong-1 in 1998.
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