PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 26: A North Korean national flag in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong is seen from an observation post on May 26, 2010 in Panmunjom, South Korea.
Photographer: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea says North Korea has fired a long-range rocket in a defiant move just days ahead of South Korea's presidential election.
It was the second rocket launch under leader Kim Jong Un. Kim took power following his father Kim Jong Il's death one year ago.
It wasn't immediately clear if the rocket launch Wednesday morning succeeded. A similar launch in April broke apart shortly after liftoff.
Officials at South Korea's Defense Ministry and its Joint Chiefs of Staff who confirmed the launch spoke anonymously because of department rules.
The United Nations, Washington, Seoul and others condemned Pyongyang for the launches. Washington calls them a cover to test technology for missiles that could be used to strike the United States.
Japan says North Korean rocket debris fell in seas off Japan, Philippines, Korean Peninsula.
North Korea says its putting a monitoring satellite into orbit.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command says North Korea appears to have launched "an object" into Earth orbit, but neither the missile used nor debris from the launch are a threat to North America.
NORAD officials said U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch at 7:49 p.m. EST Tuesday. The missile was tracked in a southerly direction.
NORAD said initial indications were that the first stage of the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea and that the second stage fell into the Philippine Sea.
Quoting a NORAD news release: "Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America."
NORAD is based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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