The Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at the North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site

North Korea satellite 'orbits normally'

A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting the Earth normally, South Korea has said.

North Korea defiantly launched the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket this week and its state media quickly announced it placed an observation satellite into orbit.

Seoul and Washington condemned the launch as a cover for testing banned ballistic missile technology but they said the launch appeared to be successful.

South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters the satellite is orbiting at a speed of 4.7 miles per second but it is not known what mission it is performing.

He said it takes two weeks to determine whether a satellite works successfully after lift-off. 

He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

The UN Security Council yesterday condemned Pyongyang's rocket launch and said it will urgently consider "an appropriate response".

The UN's most powerful body said in a brief statement after closed consultations that the launch violated Security Council resolutions adopted after North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and a ban on "any launch using ballistic missile technology".

The council said that after the North's failed launch in April it demanded that Pyongyang halt any further launches using ballistic missile technology and expressed its determination to take action in the event of another launch.

"Members of the Security Council will continue consultation on an appropriate response ... given the urgency of the matter," the council statement said.

The rocket launch is widely seen as a test which takes North Korea one step closer to being capable of sending a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California.

North Korean officials said the rocket is meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns, and Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a civilian space programme.

The closed consultations were attended by the five nations which will join the council on January 1, including South Korea.

South Korea's UN ambassador, Kim Sook, told reporters the launch was "a blatant violation" of council resolutions and "constitutes a very dangerous challenge to the security of the Republic of Korea and the security situation in the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia".

He said consultations will continue, and "I believe the Security Council will take appropriate action in swift and robust manner".

US ambassador Susan Rice praised the council for "one of the swiftest and strongest" initial responses to sanctions violations.

She said members must "send a clear message that violations have consequences" and told reporters the United States will be working with other countries "to pursue appropriate action".

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