SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a long-range missile this morning, defying repeated international warnings, worrying its neighbors and setting itself up for increased sanctions.
The North Korean news agency announced that a rocket was launched about 11:30 a.m. local time in Korea. The U.S. State Department, the South Korean president's office and Japanese media reports confirmed the launch.
The three-stage rocket flew over Japan, with its first two stages falling harmlessly into the Sea of Japan and Pacific Ocean, respectively. The Japanese government announced that it did not use its antimissile defense system, which it had deployed in case debris from a failed launch imperiled its territory.
North Korea said the "peaceful" launch would put a communications satellite into orbit, but the United States, Japan and South Korea described it as a test of a ballistic missile that could fly as far as the western United States.
The apparently successful launch of the Taepodong-2 missile came on its second test. The first test in 2006 failed after less than a minute. Experts said North Korea has been working on long-range missile development with Iran, which successfully launched a similar missile in February.
Japan immediately called for an emergency session today of the U.N. Security Council. "Our primary concern is to confirm safety and gather information," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said.
North Korea had said it planned to put a communications satellite into space. But many analysts predicted that the launch would actually be a test of the regime's ability to use the three-stage Taepodong-2 to deliver a warhead.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted government officials in Seoul as saying that the rocket carried a satellite. That report was not immediately confirmed.