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North Korea launches rocket

In this satellite image from March 29, a missile is shown on the launchpad at the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea.

Associated Press/DigitalGlobe

In this satellite image from March 29, a missile is shown on the launchpad at the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea.

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.

State Department: "We look on this as a provocative act," said spokesman Fred Lash. The launch "will prompt the United States to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it cannot threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity. … North's Korea's development, deployment and proliferation of missiles, ballistic missile-related materials, equipment and technologies pose a serious threat to the northeast Asia region and to the international community."

Congress: "It is alarming that North Korea carried out this missile launch in direct defiance of the international community. The test is an unnecessary provocation that raises tensions in the region, and I urge the North Koreans to stop using their missile and WMD programs to threaten their neighbors and the rest of the world." — Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

South Korea: "We cannot help but feel shame and be disappointed at North Korea's reckless behavior," said Lee Dong-kwan, a government spokesman. He said the missile launch "is seriously threatening the security not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also of the rest of the world."

Japan: "Even if it is a satellite launch, it is a breach of U.N. resolutions," said government spokesman Takeo Kawamura. Jittery Japanese military officials acknowledged that they had twice incorrectly announced Saturday that North Korea had launched its rocket. An embarrassed Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada called it "inexcusable" that two false alarms hours apart by the nation's Self Defense Forces had announced that the rocket had lifted off. The ministry retracted both announcements moments later, blaming them on computer and communications glitches.

North Korea launches rocket 04/05/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 12:28am]
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