North Korea defied demands from Japan, South Korea and the United States not to go ahead with a planned launch of what Pyongyang said would carry into space an experimental communications satellite.
The United States says North Korea launched a Taepodong- 2 missile which flew into the Pacific Ocean over northern Japan.
Japan says no debris has apparently fallen on its territory after what it calls a provocative rocket launch. Japan has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council later in the day to discuss the event, which it and others say violates a U.N. resolution.
The Japanese government, which had gone on high alert in case any debris fell on its territory, says the first stage of the rocket fell 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 booster stage dropped in the western Pacific Ocean nearly 1,300 miles east of Japan.
Japan's Defense Ministry says its forces made no attempt to shoot down the rocket as it flew over two northern prefectures -- Akita and Iwate.
Shortly after Japan confirmed the launch, Prime Minister Taro Aso briefly spoke to reporters. Mr. Aso says he has instructed authorities to make sure no debris had harmed any person or property in the country. Japan joined South Korea and the United States in calling the launch a provocative act.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Nakamura calls North Korea's action "extremely regrettable." Nakamura says whether North Korea was placing a satellite into space, as it claimed, or was indeed testing a missile, the launch violates a United Nations Security Council resolution forbidding Pyongyang from further ballistic missile development.
Nakamura, the top government spokesman, says Japan is prepared to extend economic sanctions by one year against North Korea. The 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.