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North Korea launches long-range rocket in defiance of US ban

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it has said is a satellite, South Korea said, in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo by KCNA/Reuters)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on Dec. 10, 2015.

This story has been updated.

North Korea launched a long-range rocket Sunday, drawing stern condemnation from the U.S., Japan and the United Nations.

While Pyongyang said the rocket carried a satellite, the launch was widely viewed as a cover for testing ballistic missile technology — in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

"We have totally succeeded in launching the fourth Kwangmyongsong satellite," North Korean state media said in a broadcast after the launch. It said the satellite reached its planned location in space in 9 minutes and 46 seconds.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the launch "a real threat towards the international community," while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the "flagrant violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions" relating to North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology.

Kerry spoke with the South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on the phone Sunday and "reaffirmed for both foreign ministers the U.S. ironclad commitment to the security and defense of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and our other allies," according to the U.S. State Department.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the launch "deeply deplorable" and urged North Korea to "halt its provocative actions and return to compliance with its international obligations," Ki-moon's spokesman said in a statement.

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The launch triggered an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting Sunday morning, while South Korea said it was in talks with the U.S. to deploy a THAAD missile defense system.

"The members of the Security Council also recalled that they have previously expressed their determination to take 'further significant measures' in the event of another DPRK launch," the U.N. Security Council said in a statement. "In line with this commitment and the gravity of this most recent violation, the members of the Security Council will adopt expeditiously a new Security Council resolution with such measures in response to these dangerous and serious violations."

North Korea has conducted four nuclear weapons tests, the latest of which was last month.

"With each one of these actions, the DPRK moves one step closer to its declared goal of developing nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. And we cannot and will not allow this to happen," said the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power.

She called for sanctions on North Korea "to affect the calculus of a regime that has brazenly and recklessly acted in defiance of international norms and in a continual threat to regional and international peace and security."

Power said a new resolution including sanctions would take time, but the council knew they need to move "expeditiously."

"We will not tolerate North Korea going ahead with the launch after repeated warnings to restrain themselves," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, promising that his nation would stand with the international community to take "appropriate measures" in response.

On Sunday, the North Korean rocket was launched just before 9:30 a.m. Seoul time (7:30 p.m. ET), with South Korea and the U.S. tracking its flight.

U.S. Strategic Command said it tracked the missile at 7:29 p.m. ET traveling in a southern direction over the Yellow Sea. "At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to the United States or its allies," U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement.

The launch vehicle appears to have reached space, a U.S. Defense Department official said.

North Korea had notified U.N. agencies that it planned to launch a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite into space, triggering opposition from governments.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads are launched into sub-orbital space to reach distant targets.

North Korean state media said the launch was overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un. The statement on state media said the device launched into orbit is for peaceful purposes.

North Korea launched what it said was a satellite into orbit in 2012. North Korea is banned from conducting missile and nuclear tests, under the terms of U.N. sanctions imposed after a series of nuclear weapons tests.

North Korea sparked an international outcry last month when it conducted what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb test — which if true would represent a leap forward in technology. Experts and other nations have doubted the claim.

The isolated country has conducted nuclear tests in the past, most recently in 2013, but never tested a hydrogen bomb.

"This is the second time in just over a month that the DPRK has chosen to conduct a major provocation, threatening not only the security of the Korean peninsula, but that of the region and the United States as well," Kerry said.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 before the Jan. 6 test. Hydrogen weapons are typically much more powerful than atomic bombs like those used in World War II, and are more difficult to make.

North Korea and South Korea have technically been at war since the 1950s. An armistice established a cease fire between the two nations in 1953. 

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