North Korea launches rocket over South Korea, Japan

Only days after hinting it could delay the launch of its rocket carrying a satellite, North Korea stunned the world Wednesday morning by launching it.

The launch came at 9:49 a.m., first passing over South Korea.  It crossed over Okinawa Prefecture at 10:01 a.m., on a trajectory passing Ishigaki.  South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirms the launch of a long range ballistic missile, although its clock showed a 9:51 a.m. launch time.

The launch comes only days before the first anniversary of long-time North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s death.  It follows a failed attempt last April that didn’t stay airborne even two minutes before parts plunged into the sea off South Korea’s coast.

The rocket’s second stage was expected to drop near the Philippines before the satellite goes into orbit.  The launch came from a site on North Korea’s west coast.  North Korea says the rocket’s for peaceful purposes, but Japan, the United States and other countries suspect the launch is a covert test of long-range missile technology in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Pyongyang says it’s entitled to launch a satellite into space.