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    Japan Condemns North Korea's Rocket Launch

    Japan has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss North Korea's rocket launch, which it and others say violates U.N. resolutions. Japan considers the launch, which traveled over its territory, extremely provocative.

    North Korea defied demands from Japan, South Korea and the United States not to go ahead with a planned launch of what Pyongyang claims is an experimental communications satellite.

    About 4.5 hours after the rocket's launch, North Korea announced the satellite was smoothly orbiting the Earth, transmitting data and melodies praising the nation's late founder Kim Il Sun and his son, current leader Kim Jong Il.

    The United States says North Korea launched a Taepodong-2 missile that flew into the Pacific Ocean over northern Japan.

    The U.S. State Department says Secretary Hillary Clinton discussed the implications of the launch in a telephone conversation with her Japanese counterpart, Hirofumi Nakasone.

    The Japanese government, which had gone on high alert in case any debris fell on its territory, says the first rocket booster dropped into the Sea of Japan 13 minutes after the launch (at 11:30 a.m. local time) about 280 kilometers off Japan's western shore. The second stage dropped in the Pacific Ocean.

    The Japanese Coast Guard has dispatched vessels to attempt to locate and retrieve any rocket debris in the water.

    Japan's Defense Ministry says its forces made no attempt with specially-deployed interceptors to shoot down the rocket or any possible wayward falling parts during the seven minutes flight over two northern prefectures (states) - Akita and Iwate.

    Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso says the launch is an extremely provocative act Japan cannot ignore.

    Mr. Aso says North Korea had been warned by Japan and other nations, especially the United States and South Korea, not to conduct the launch. Therefore, he says, Japan wants to respond in cooperation with the international community to demonstrate the launch clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions.

    Japan immediately called for an emergency Security Council session to begin behind closed doors at 1900 UTC.

    Japan's government says even if North Korea actually put a satellite into space, the launch still violates U.N. actions forbidding Pyongyang from conducting further ballistic missile development.

    Japan is also planning to act on its own to extend economic sanctions by one year against North Korea. The Japanese sanctions, which are due to expire next week, followed a previous North Korean ballistic missile firing and a nuclear test, both in 2006.

    Japan's Foreign Ministry says a protest has been sent to Pyongyang by way of the Chinese government. Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations.

    Following the North Korean launch, U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in the Czech Republic, called North Korea's missile program a threat to countries "near and far." The President, who says he was awakened with news of the launch, called Pyongyang's action a move that will further isolate North Korea from the community of nations.


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