The humiliating failure of North Korea's much-publicised rocket launch may push the hermit state into testing a nuclear bomb in an attempt to save face, analysts said Friday.
Touted as a glorious demonstration of North Korean technology to mark the centenary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung, the rocket instead turned into a damp squib when it crashed into the sea.
The 30-metre Unha-3 (Galaxy-3) rocket blasted off early Friday morning from a newly built space centre on the country's northwestern coast.
But shortly after launch, it broke apart and the debris fell into the Yellow Sea off South Korea, the South's Yonhap news agency quoted a high-ranking military source as saying.
"North Korea executed its highly anticipated missile launch and with its failure managed to achieve the second-worst outcome imaginable. The worst would have been hitting China," Marcus Noland of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in a blog post.
"The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the UN Security Council, the United States, and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude."
The "humiliation" of the rocket failure, Noland said, might force new leader Kim Jong-Un - who took over after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in December - to conduct a nuclear weapon test to restore honour.
Analysts say satellite imagery showing what looks like preparations, and the communist regime's patterns of behaviour - with missile tests followed by bomb tests - suggest a third nuclear test could be imminent. "After this fiasco, it seems likely that such a test will move forward," Noland wrote.Rory Medcalf, international security programme director at the Lowy Institute think-tank in Australia, said the regime's plans to test a uranium-fuelled nuclear device could be pushed forward.
Wrong turn shows reality
A bus carrying foreign journalists took a wrong turn and suddenly, everything changed in the official showcase of North Korean achievement.
A cloud of dust swirled down deeply potholed streets, past concrete apartment buildings crumbling at the edges. Elderly people trudged along the pavement. Two men in wheelchairs waited at a bus stop. There were shops with no lights, and unsurfaced sidestreets.
As the camera shutters clicked, the drivers of the three buses quickly reversed up the the narrow streets and headed toward the intended destination: a spotlessly clean, brightly lit, extensively marbled and nearly empty building that makes digital music recordings.
Guardian news service