Various news outlets are reporting North Korea has fired a long-range rocket ignoring warnings from the United Nations, the United States and a variety of other nations from around the region.
It appears the launch took place at 9:49 a.m. local time. The rocket passed over the island of Okinawa according to published reports.
The New York Times reported: "The Unha-3, or Gal axy-3, rocket blasted off from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri on North Korea’s western coast near China on Wednesday morning, a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry said."
There has been no word as of yet if the rocket placed a satellite into orbit, which was the stated goal of the launch.
Recent reports had suggested that North Korea was having problems with the rocket. The initial launch window had been extended until December 29th with Wired's Danger Room noting that "new satellite images show that the rocket may have been taken off its launch pad."
Over the next few days we hope to bring you more information as it becomes available.
Update: The U.S. Military's North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has released a statement confirming the test and saying, "Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."
North Korea's official news outlet, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also published a brief report claiming the launch was a success. "The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday. The satellite entered its preset orbit," the report said.
This was Pyongyang's fifth such long-range test launch. The first four failed to place projectiles into orbit, according to foreign intelligence agencies. North Korea claimed the first three were successful before admitting that the fourth one, which took place last April, had failed soon after take-off.
South Korea's Foreign Minister, Kim Sung-Kwan, condemned the launch on Wednesday, telling reporters, "Our government strongly condemns, along with the international community, North Korea for ignoring repeated warnings and requests to cancel the launch and carrying on with such provocations."
Meanwhile, Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency is reporting that Japan's UN envoy called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the launch.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's office released a statement stating that the UN chief "deplores the rocket launch" and calling it "a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009), in which the Council demanded that the DPRK not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology."'
An official from the Russian Defence Ministry told Interfax Moscow had tracked the launch, can confirm it took place, and that it didn't threaten Russia.
China does not appear to have said anything about the test at the time of this writing. On Tuesday a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson acknowledged seeing reports that North Korea was in the process of disassembling the three stage rocket, and told reporters at a regular press briefing:"We hope parties concerned can take a long-term perspective, deal with this calmly and appropriately, avoid taking actions that may further escalate the situation, and jointly maintain the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region as a whole,"
There are now reports that the UN Security Council has said it will meet on Wendesday at the request of Japan and the U.S.to discuss the launch.