North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday from a launch site in the country’s northwest, media reported said.
South Korea’s defense ministry said, in defiance of United Nations sanctions barring it from using ballistic missile technology.
But according to a North Korean official, it only carries an Earth observation satellite.
The launch is seen by the international community as cover for missile technology test.
According to the South Korean Yonhap news agency, the rocket is believed to have a range of over 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles).
It initially gave a Feb. 8-25 time frame for the launch but changed that to Feb. 7-14 on Saturday.
The rocket was launched on a southward trajectory, as planned, passing over Japan’s southern Okinawa islands, Japan’s NHK reported, and appeared to have successfully separated its first stage booster, South Korea’s Yonhap reported.
North Korea is believed to be working on miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile, but many experts say it is some time away from perfecting such technology.
It has shown off two versions of a ballistic missile resembling a type that could reach the US West Coast, but there is no evidence the missiles have been tested.
Isolated North Korea says it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program. But it is barred under U.N. Security Council resolutions from using ballistic missile technology.
It last launched a long-range rocket in December 2012, sending into orbit an object it described as a communications satellite.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch “absolutely unacceptable.”
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) did not take any destroy action to a rocket launched by North Korea earlier Sunday heading in the direction of Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.
The Japanese government ordered its SDF to interrupt incoming rockets launched by North Korea if they threaten the safety of Japan. Anti-missile rockets were deployed in Okinawa.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed that the rocket posed no threat to Japan, but adding that the move, following North Korea’s recent nuclear test, is a violation of relevant UN resolution and put Japan’s security in danger. – RobertBeerlak