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North Korea launches long-range rocket (VIDEO)

North Korea has launched its second long-range rocket of 2012.

North korea rocket launch december 12 2012Enlarge
Travellers watch a TV screen broadcasting news on North Korea's rocket launch, at a railway station in Seoul on December 12, 2012. North Korea on December 12 launched a long-range rocket which Japanese authorities said passed over its southern island chain of Okinawa. It was the second launch this year, after a failed attempt in April. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Wednesday in defiance of international criticism, Agence France-Presse reported.

"It [the rocket] has been launched,'' a spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry told AFP.

North Korea said a satellite had successfully been put into orbit in space, a claim US military officials said appeared to be true.

The rocket had followed its planned trajectory, with stages falling in expected areas, the BBC wrote

The White House, which is concerned the launch is covering for ballistic missile activity, denounced the move as a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security," said the AP

Meanwhile, the Japanese government quickly requested a special UN Security Council meeting to discuss the launch, according to the Associated Press

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rocket launch as a "provocative act" and council diplomats said they hoped the Security Council could agree on a a condemnation, according to Reuters.

"We support a strong reaction by the council, it's a clear violation," said French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud, while British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant echoed the sentiment, saying, "In our view (the council) should react, it should react quickly, and it should react strongly to this provocation."

The isolated Stalinist state launched the long-range rocket — its second this year — close to the one-year anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il and ahead of December elections in Japan and South Korea. 

Pyongyang had said that launch was aimed at putting a satellite into space. The April missile fizzled within minutes of blast-off. 

More from GlobalPost: North Korea rocket launch: US, Japan, South Korea, others angry over provocative move

North Korea was reportedly considering delaying the controversial rocket launch, which has been condemned by the international community.

Japan, which is due to hold general elections on Dec.16, had threatened to shoot down the missile if it went off course into Japanese airspace. Bloomberg created an image here that traces the rocket's potential flight path. 

Russia, the United States, and other nations had also spoken out against the satellite launch, calling it a cover for ballistic missile technology tests.

Sky News reported that South Korea's president, Lee Myung-Bak, has called an emergency security meeting following the launch, and Reuters reported that Japanese security forces were doing the same.

From Seoul, GlobalPost correspondent Geoffrey Cain said: "For most South Koreans who are accustomed to the North's sporadic brinkmanship, the rocket launch raised eyebrows and then became a non-event."

"Of course it's regrettable," one high-ranking infantry commander in Uijeongbu, an army base town north of Seoul, told Cain, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

"But we've become familiar with this thing from the North. Every few months or years they do something bad to us, but we just live with it and get on with our lives, and hope they'll get sensible on day."

“Rocket and nuclear tests are targeting Americans,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Kookmin University. “The South Korean public assumes that nuclear weapons are not going to be used against South Koreans, because they are fellow Koreans.”

About half of South Korea's entire population lives within the shooting range of some 300 North Korean artillery pieces that constitute a more immediate threat, Lankov said. In 2008, South Korea halted its assistance to North Korea. Since then, relations have fallen to a nadir as the DPRK has pursued what Lankov called brinkmanship as a strategy for extracting money.

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Watch Bloomberg's report on Japan's reaction to the launch here: 

GlobalPost's Geoffrey Cain contributed reporting from Seoul, South Korea.

 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/121211/north-korea-launches-long-range-rocket