Navy set to end search for debris from N. Korean rocket
The Navy is set to wrap up an operation on Tuesday to retrieve debris from North Korea's failed rocket launch, without finding any pieces presumed to be rocket fragments, defense ministry officials said.
The North's Unha-3 long-range rocket exploded mid-air about two minutes after blast-off on Friday and disintegrated into some 20 pieces. The debris fell into international waters 100-150 kilometers off South Korea's west coast, officials said.
More than 10 South Korean warships, equipped with sonar radars, and minesweepers have been scouring the Yellow Sea to recover the rocket debris since the North's botched launch, but the operation has made no progress, ministry officials said.
"No debris has been found in the search operation so far," a senior ministry official said on the condition of anonymity, adding the operation will end as of 5:00 p.m.
"The depth of the waters where the debris was believed to have landed is between 70 and 80 meters and there are high-turbidity zones, making it almost impossible to find any chunks of debris," the official said.
If retrieved, experts said, the rocket debris could offer clues on how much progress North Korea has made in its development of ballistic missile technology.
North Korea claimed the launch was designed to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea, the United States and others blasted it as a cover for testing improved ballistic missile technology.
The North's failed launch drew swift international condemnations. In New York on Monday, the United Nations Security Council "strongly condemned" the North's launch, saying it will impose new sanctions if Pyongyang carries out another launch of a long-range rocket or a nuclear test. (Yonhap)