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Defiant North Korea Launches Rocket


North Koreans Celebrate Rocket Launch
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The international community is condemning the apparently successful launch of a North Korean rocket into space.

Pyongyang says a weather satellite has been placed in orbit following the December 12 launch.

The move was quickly condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as by South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

They describe the launch as a violation of a UN resolution that calls on North Korea not to conduct any launches using ballistic-missile technology.

Both Russia and China expressed regret about Pyongyang's action.

Diplomats say efforts are under way to arrange an emergency session of the UN Security Council as early as December 12.

The three-stage rocket was launched from a site on North Korea's west coast.

"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12," a news reader on state-run North Korean television announced shortly afterward. "The satellite entered its present orbit."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that North Korea "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."

NORAD said the first stage of the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea and the second stage into the Philippine Sea.

'Strongest Protest'

A UN statement quoted Secretary-General Ban as saying he was "concerned about the negative consequences” that the launch could have on “peace and stability” in the region.

The White House labeled the launch as a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security."

South Korea called an emergency meeting of its National Security Council.

Japan said the rocket flew over Okinawa, south of the Japanese mainland, and denounced the firing as “intolerable.”

"We strongly requested them to not go through with their launch," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters. "The fact that they still went through with the launch is extremely regrettable and not something that Japan can accept. We will express our strongest protests to North Korea."

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton threatened “possible additional restrictive measures” against North Korea.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the North Korean launch had heightened instability in the region and called on other states to refrain from further escalating tensions.

China, the impoverished North Korea’s biggest trading partner and aid provider, said Pyongyang should observe "relevant" resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Tense Peninsula

The launch followed a failed rocket launch by the North in April.

It came days before the first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s former ruler and father of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, who took power one year ago.

A UN resolution passed in 2009 after North Korea's second nuclear test banned Pyongyang from ballistic missile tests.

North Korea says it is entitled to launch satellites, but critics accuse the regime of using launches as a cover to develop long-range missiles that can carry nuclear weapons.

Faced with multiple rounds of sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile activities, the North has repeatedly pulled out of six-nation talks on its nuclear disarmament in exchange for aid. Those talks also involve South Korea, Japan, Russia, China, and the United States.

Based on reporting from AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa