North Korea has launched a long-range rocket

North Korea test-launched two Nodong ballistic missiles into the East Sea in the morning of March 26, 2014, according to South Korea’s military report. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images.

North Korea has launched a long range-rocket, South Korean officials have confirmed.

The communist government fired the rocket on Sunday morning prompting fears that it could have been a banned missile test in disguise.

The rocket reportedly left at 9am Pyongyang time with claims by Pyongyang that it was carrying a satellite, Al-Jazeera reports.

According to Japan’s national public broadcasting organization NHK, the fired object split into five parts with one landing in the Yellow Sea, two in the East China Sea, another estimated to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean with the final part continuing southward.

The launch currently contravenes resolutions set out by the UN Security Council which prohibits any launch used with ballistic missile technology with South Korea warning that North Korea would pay a “severe price” if the launch went ahead.

It has since drawn condemnation from Japan with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe describing the launch as “absolutely intolerable” and a “clear violation” of international standards.

The US echoed these sentiments with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice releasing a statement saying that “North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs represent serious threats to our interests — including the security of some of our closest allies — and undermine peace and security in the broader region.”

There were already suspicions that North Korea would carry out a launch from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station near the Chinese border as new commercial satellite imagery released last week showed increased fueling activity at the site.

Photo: Picture: Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North.

Earlier this week, North Korea confirmed to UN agencies that it would launch a rocket with an “Earth observation satellite” after bringing the launch window forward to the period between February 7-14. Pyongyang previously said that the launch would be conducted between February 8-25.

The news follows claims made by North Korea last month that the country had “successfully” tested a hydrogen bomb after a 5.1 magnitude quake was detected in the north-east of Korea close to the nuclear test site.

The last time a long-rocket was launched by North Korea was in December 2012 when it claimed to have launched a communications satellite into orbit. But it has encountered a number of failures along the way including a three-stage rocket which exploded after takeoff and fell into the sea in April 2012 and another satellite orbit in April 2009 which the US and South Korea said had failed.

There are now reports by Yahoo7 and AFP that the missile could have a potential range of 9,000km which could put Australia, the US west coast and Western Europe in the targeting area.

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