Wire: North Korea Launches Rocket
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, April 4, 2009 -- Newswires reported late this evening that South Korea's presidential office has confirmed North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket launch from its east coast base.
The U.S. State Department also said that North Korea has launched a rocket.
The Associated Press reported that the Japanese government said North Korea launched what it claims to be a communications satellite Sunday.
Reports said the liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. (0230GMT) Sunday morning from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea.
South Korea's presidential palace said it was too early to say whether the launch had been a technical success.
Japanese broadcaster NHK cites the Japanese government as saying the rocket flew over Japan and reached airspace over the Pacific Ocean. It said there were no reports of any debris falling on Japan.
The French news agency AFP reported that North Korea had said it intended to launch an experimental communications satellite -- an exercise that critics said would be a disguised ballistic missile test.
North Korea had said the rocket's first stage would fall in the sea 75 kilometres (about 50 miles) west of Japan, and the second stage would plunge into the Pacific.
North Korea pushed ahead with the launch despite mounting pressure to cancel a liftoff. President Barack Obama warned Friday the launch would be a "provocative" act.
AP reported that leaders from the U.S., South Korea, Japan fear North Korea;s long-range rocket test could be a first step toward putting a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of reaching Alaska and beyond.
News outlets earlier today reported that Obama, in a speech Sunday, would offer a plan for the reduction and disarmament of the U.S. nuclear deterrent arsenal and cut the development and implementation of missile defense systems.
This is a developing story.
(Report from multiple news media sources.)
AP UPDATE: LEAD: N. Korea launches 'satellite' despite international pressure+
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