North Korea launched its much-anticipated long-range rocket over international objections, an official said.
"We're now tracking the flight path," an official speaking on condition of anonymity told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.
The launch of the Unha-3 rocket came on the second day of a five-day window of opportunity. The North said the rocket's only mission was carry a satellite into space, but the South, the United States and others worry it was a cover to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Many analysts had thought the launch would be Saturday, the eve of the centennial birth celebrations of the North's late founder Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un, Yonhap said.
Several Western countries said they think the launch really is a test of North Korea's ballistic missile technology, which would violate several U.N. resolutions.
The United States was preparing a response to the launch, which includes suspension of a food aid agreement announced six weeks ago, a senior official told The New York Times. The United States also plans to bring together international condemnation of the launch.
The United States won't seek more U.N. Security Council sanctions because North Korea already is heavily sanctioned and the United States must preserve its political standing with China and Russia to secure their backing for any future U.N. measures against Syria and Iran, the official told the Times. More likely, the source said, would be a statement from the U.N. Security Council president.
Administration officials said they were concerned the missile launch could be the first in a series of provocations that may include testing of a nuclear bomb possibly fueled by highly enriched uranium.
"North Korea should stop engaging in these types of provocative and destabilizing actions," Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Times. "We'd like to see nations that have close relations with North Korea consider what else they could do to send a clear signal to this new leadership that it's time for them to move in a different direction."
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