Pyongyang/Washington: Defying warnings from the international community, North Korea launched a long-range rocket into orbit Friday, reported CNN citing two US officials.
International leaders had urged North Korea to cancel the launch. But Pyongyang refused to back down, stating the operation is for peaceful purposes.
The North Koreans have said the rocket is needed to launch a weather satellite into orbit.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency also reported about North Korea launching its long-range rocket Friday, according to RIA Novosti.
“We’re now tracking the flight path,” the report quoted an official who declined being identified as saying.
Pyongyang, however, has not confirmed the launch, the BBC reported.
Prior to the blastoff, North Korea said the rocket would put a weather satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung. It also said the launch was in compliance with the Space Treaty, which guarantees every state the right to carry out space programs.
The G-8 foreign ministers had also urged North Korea for honouring its commitments and to cancel its rocket’s launch.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “There is no doubt that this [launch] would use ballistic missile technology.”
Speaking at a press conference, she also threatened North Korea with possible sanctions.
“If Pyongyang goes forward [in launching the rocket] we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action.”
Countries including the US and South Korea see the North Korea’s rocket launch as a cover for a ballistic missile test.
The US, Japan and South Korea consider the launch as being in contravention of international obligations under UN Resolution 1718 and 1874, forbidding North Korea from carrying out ballistic missile test launches.
Under a deal signed in February, Pyongyang agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests in return for US food aid.