The U.N. Security Council has condemned North Korea's rocket launch, calling it a clear violation of U.N. resolutions that ban Pyongyang from carrying out missile or nuclear-related tests.
The council held emergency talks Wednesday on the launch. Beforehand, Britain's U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called it a "provocation."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said North Korea would face "consequences" for firing the rocket. He called the move "regrettable" and said it violated U.N. resolutions.
Related - US Condemns N. Korean Rocket Launch
North Korea announced Wednesday it launched a long-range rocket which it says put a weather satellite into orbit.
Such a feat, if confirmed, would represent a major step forward in the country's quest to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
North Korean state media called the launch a "groundbreaking" mission that met the "last instructions" of Pyongyang's late leader, Kim Jong Il.
"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12. The satellite entered its present orbit," read the statement.
The U.S. military [The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD] said Wednesday that North Korea had "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit." Other analysts made the same assessment.
A successful launch of a satellite into orbit would boost the domestic credentials of Kim Jong Il's son and successor, Kim Jong Un.
The United States, Japan and South Korea are among the many countries that have condemned the launch. Russia and China - which, like the U.S., are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - have criticized the move.
China is North Korea's main ally and biggest trading partner.
The timing of the launch surprised many observers and Western diplomats, given that reports on Tuesday suggested North Korea was disassembling the rocket because of technical difficulties.
David Fouse, an analyst with the Hawaii-based Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies said the notoriously reclusive leadership in Pyongyang may have intentionally misled the international community.
"I'm not sure whether there was an intelligence failure or if the North Koreans were just kind of playing games with the international community," he said. "They might have wanted to catch people off-guard and I think they did surprise a lot of people with the timing of this launch."
North Korea said on Monday a "technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket" could delay the launch by a week.
In April, North Korea's three-stage, liquid-fueled Unha-3 rocket exploded just minutes after liftoff. Previous attempts to fire long-range rockets in 2006 and 2009 also ended in failure, even though North Korean officials insisted that they succeeded.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the failed April launch and ordered foreign assets seized from several North Korean companies linked to financing and procuring weapons and missile technology.
Weeks after that launch, the United States responded by canceling a deal that would have provided the impoverished North with 240,000 metric tons of food.
Youths play instruments in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater to celebrate the rocket launch, Pyongyang, North Korea, December 12, 2012.
Youths dance in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 12, 2012.
A North Korean dances to music in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theater, December 12, 2012.
South Korean religious leaders raise placards and shout slogans during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
South Korean protesters burn a mock rocket as police officers spray fire extinguishers during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
A South Korean protester shouts slogans during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch, Seoul, South Korea, December 12, 2012.
South Korean man uses his smartphone to take a photo of television screen reporting news about North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 12, 2012.