S. Korea: N. Korea launches rocket

A recent satellite image shows a rocket sitting on its launch pad in northeast North Korea.
North Korea has launched a long-range rocket, U.S. and South Korean officials confirmed to CNN on Sunday.

The payload of the rocket remains unclear. North Korea has said the rocket was to carry a satellite into space, but the United States, South Korea and other nations fear it could be a missile with a warhead attached. A senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed that the rocked did clear Japan. The rocket — launched at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday (10:30 p.m. ET Saturday) — was a “provocative act in violation” of U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea’s weapons program, said Fred Lash, a State Department spokesman, told reporters. An October 2006 resolution condemned North Korea for missile launches in the summer and a nuclear test that same month. Watch the debate about what North Korea is allowed to do ┬╗ On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States strongly opposes any such launch. “We have made it very clear to the North Koreans that their missile launch is provocative, it puts enormous strains on the six-party talks and that they should stop the launch,” Obama said while on a stop in France.

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Obama warned that the United States will join with its allies to take “appropriate steps” to let North Korea know it can’t violate United Nations rules and get away with it. Earlier Sunday, before the launch, South Korea’s national security council called an emergency meeting amid concerns that a North Korean rocket launch was imminent, a presidential spokesperson told CNN on Sunday. Also, Japan’s representative to the United Nations, Yukio Takasu, sent a letter requesting an urgent Security Council meeting in response to the launch. The letter to Claude Heller, Mexico’s representative and the current security council president, was sent minutes after news of the launch broke. Western nations fear that North Korea plans a ballistic missile test rather than a satellite launch, but the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Six-Party Talks, Stephen Bosworth, said last week that it didn’t matter if the North Koreans were trying to put a satellite in space or testing a ballistic missile that could threaten Japan or the United States.

“Whether it is a satellite launch or a missile launch, in our judgment makes no difference. It is a provocative act,” Bosworth said. Bosworth said the U.S. stands ready — after a launch — to participate in United Nations deliberations on new sanctions against North Korea.