SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea defiantly carried out a provocative rocket launch Sunday that the U.S., Japan and other nations suspect was a cover for a test of its long-range missile technology.
Liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. (0230GMT) Sunday from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea, the South Korean government said. In Washington, the State Department also confirmed the launch.
The rocket flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese broadcaster NHK said, citing its government.
"Our primary concern is to confirm safety and gather information," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a news conference at his Tokyo office Sunday.
Resisting calls from President Barack Obama, Aso and Hu Jintao of China to call off the launch, North Korea had announced Saturday that preparations were complete to send communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 on a multistage rocket bound for the skies over Japan.
Tokyo deployed warships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any debris that the North said might fall over the area.
U.S. and South Korean warships equipped with missile interceptors also plied the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan to monitor the launch.
Russia, meanwhile, scrambled fighter jets to its Far East in case any debris hits its territory, Russian news reports said.
North Korea pushed ahead with the launch despite mounting international pressure to cancel a liftoff Obama warned Friday would be a "provocative" act.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan said earlier in the week they would take North Korea to the U.N. Security Council for an act they say is banned under a 2006 resolution barring Pyongyang from ballistic activity.UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council is poised to hold an emergency session Sunday to deal with North Korea's rocket launch.
Japan requested an emergency session Sunday among diplomats on the 15-nation council that handles threats to international peace and security, said Yutaka Arima, a spokesman for Japan's United Nations mission.
That request occurred within minutes of the launch, he said.
Approval of a council meeting will come after certain formalities are handled, said Marco Morales, a spokesman for Claude Heller, Mexico's ambassador to the U.N. Mexico holds the council presidency this month.
"As soon as we get the letter, we'll call for a meeting to be held as soon as possible," Morales said.
The U.S. and South Korean governments confirmed North Korea launched a long-range rocket launch from its east coast base that flew over Japan.
North Korea says it was putting a communications satellite into space. The U.S., South Korea, Japan and others suspect Pyongyang of using the launch to improperly test long-range missile technology.
Diplomats at the U.N. say the U.S., Britain, France and South Korea already have begun discussing a possible Security Council resolution to reaffirm its existing sanctions on North Korea.
Those sanctions were imposed in 2006 in an attempt to persuade North Korea to shelve its nuclear program and halt long-range missile tests.
The diplomats said the U.S., Britain and France, each of which holds veto power on the 15-nation council, are unlikely to seek new sanctions in the face of probable resistance from China, North Korea's closest ally, and Russia, the other two nations with veto power.
They spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.