The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned North Korea's rocket launch, saying it intends to adopt "appropriate measures" if the country continues with more launches using prohibited ballistic missiles technology.
The 15-nation council discussed the launch behind closed doors. Its members later called it a "clear violation" of UN resolutions banning North Korea from using such technology.
"The council demands that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology," said Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco, the council's president.
US Ambassador Susan Rice said council members will begin negotiations for a "clear and credible" response to the violation by North Korea.
A South Korean diplomat, who was invited to attend the council's meeting, noted that the discussion was preliminary, adding that he expected the body to take "swift" action against North Korea. The diplomat was invited to attend the council meeting as his country will begin serving a two-year term in the UN Security Council in January.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea launched the rocket from its Sohae Space Centre on its west coast.
South Korean officials also said that after a failed launch in April, the most recent liftoff appeared to have been a technical success, the Yonhap News Agency said.
The three-stage Unha-3 rocket travelled about 2,500 kilometres on a path that took it over Japanese territory before falling into the sea, news reports said.
"Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit," the US military's North American Aerospace Defense Command said on its website, NORAD.mil.
A South Korean military source who requested anonymity said the rocket had an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometres, Yonhap reported.
The estimate was based on the burn out time of the first stage, which, at 156 seconds, was 26 seconds longer than that of the rocket launched in April, the source said.
If the projection is accurate, that would put all of the United States within the rocket's range.
The communist regime's second launch of the year, and its second since Kim Jong Un took power a year ago, was carried out despite international condemnation and warnings that it would violate UN Security Council resolutions.
Japan had requested that the Security Council convene in New York to take up the launch by one of the most highly sanctioned countries in the world, the Kyodo News agency reported from Tokyo.
Japan, the United States, South Korea and other nations said the launches constitute tests of ballistic missile technology, but North Korea defended its rocket programme as peaceful, saying it merely aims to put a communications satellite into orbit.
South Korea condemned the launch, calling it "a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and around the world," and warning that Pyongyang faced deeper isolation because of it.
"We express regret at North Korea carrying out the launch despite widespread concern by the international community," said Hong Lei, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry. China is one of North Korea's only allies.
The rocket took off at 9:51 am (0051 GMT), Yonhap reported, surprising many observers after Pyongyang on Monday extended the scheduled launch window until December 29, saying technical problems had been detected.
The long-range rocket launched in April exploded minutes after takeoff, but Wednesday's flight appeared to have followed North Korea's announced path, South Korea's military said.
The first stage of the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea after being jettisoned.
Another stage landed at 10:01 am in the sea, about 300 kilometres east of the Philippines, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
The rocket flew over south-western Japanese islands, but no debris was reported on the country's territory, Japanese police said.
Japan had threatened to shoot down any part of the rocket that threatened to fall on Japanese territory, but on Wednesday, its military, which was put on alert after the announcement of the launch plans, did not give a destroy order, government officials said.
Both South Korea and Japan called meetings of their national security committees.
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