North Korea Fires Long-Range Rocket

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CBS/AP)-- North Korea has fired a long-range rocket, top U.S. and South Korean officials confirm. But a top U.S. official tells CBS News correspondent David Martin Press that the rocket "may have failed."

South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters in a nationally televised news conference that the rocket was fired at 7:39 a.m.

He said officials were trying to determine whether it was a success. He provided no further details, and declined to say how South Korea confirmed the launch in the west coast hamlet of Tongchang-ri.

Japan's defense minister said that the flying objective flew for one minute, fell down into the ocean, and it never came to Japanese territory.

A U.S. official told Reuters Thursday: "We are confirming the rocket launched." The White House said it would release a statement on the launch shortly, and South Korean presidency was set to hold an emergency meeting.

North Korea had announced it was planning the launch of an observation satellite to celebrate Sunday's centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder. There was no word from Pyongyang about the launch, its third attempt to send a satellite into space since 1998.

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The United States, Japan, Britain and others had said the launch would be a provocation and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs. Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets. The U.S. had vowed to cut off food aid to North Korean in the event of a launch.

Japan's parliament adopted a resolution Thursday condemning the scheduled rocket launch.

"A launch is a serious act of provocation that would affect peace and stability in the region that includes our country," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, reading the resolution adopted unanimously at the lower house. "We strongly urge North Korea to use self-restraint and not to carry out a launch."

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was prepared to shoot down any rocket that strays into its territory.

North Korea denies that the launch is anything but a peaceful civilian bid to send a satellite into space. The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is designed to send back images and data that will be used for weather forecasts and agricultural surveys.

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