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North Korea's salvaged space junk: Crumpled debris from rocket is retrieved by South Korea scientists who say rogue state has capacity to strike US West Coast
Debris from the rocket was found off the South Korean coast
North Korea said December 12 launch was to put a satellite in spaceCritics argue technology could be a precursor to nuclear missilesNew leader Kim Jong-un wants bigger capacity rockets to be built
17:04 GMT, 23 December 2012
North Korea's recent rocket launch shows it has likely developed the technology to fire a warhead more than 6,200 miles – putting the US West Coast in range, South Korean officials said yesterday.
The secretive state claimed the December 12 launch put a weather satellite in orbit but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.
South Korea retrieved and analysed parts of the first-stage rocket after debris fell into the waters off its west coast.
A South Korean investigator examines a piece of debris from the rocket that fell into the Yellow Sea
Analysis of pieces of wreckage from Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket, such as this one believed to be a fuel tank, shows North Korea can fire further than originally thought
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Yesterday, a Defence Ministry official said: 'As a result of analysing the material of Unha-3 (North Korea's rocket), we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000 km in case the warhead is 500-600 kg.'
North Korea is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under United Nationas sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests.
The UN Security Council condemned the launch earlier this month.
North Korea's previous missile tests ended in failure.
The country, which regularly denounces the United States as a warmonger, has spent decades trying to develop technology capable of striking long range targets.
It is also working to build a nuclear arsenal.
The South Korean Defence Ministry released this picture of the inside of the North Korean rocket
The rocket wreckage was fished out of the sea by South Korea. A minesweeper equipped with the sonar system detected three parts of the rocket in waters
But experts believe the North is still years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturise a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile.
South Korean defence officials also said there was no confirmation whether the North had the re-entry technology needed for a payload to survive the heat and vibration without disintegrating.
Despite international condemnation, the launch this month was seen as a major boost domestically to the credibility of the North's young leader Kim Jong-un, who took over power from his father who died last year.
He has called for the development of more powerful rockets after the successful satellite launch.
He told the project's backers at a banquet held in their honour that he wanted 'a variety of more working satellites' and 'carrier rockets of bigger capacity'.
The speech on Friday marks the first time he is explicitly calling for the advancement of his country's long-range rocket programme.