Reuters reported that South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called an emergency security meeting in response to the North Korean launch, which took place at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station on the secretive country's west coast.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, said North Korea's Unha rocket flew over Okinawa at 10:01 a.m. local time. He could not confirm whether any debris fell on Japanese territory. "The Japanese government regards this launch as an act compromising the peace and stability of the region, including Japan," Fujimura said. He said the Japanese government would lodge a strong protest.
Japan's NHK television network reported that the rocket's second stage crashed into the sea off the coast of the Philippines as planned, minutes after passing over Okinawa. It was not immediately clear whether the third stage made it into outer space.
North Korea says the rocket launch is aimed purely at putting its Kwangmyongsong weather satellite into a pole-to-pole orbit. But critics fear that the mission's true purpose is to test technologies for sending a nuclear warhead to targets as far away as the U.S. West Coast.
This month, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "a North Korean 'satellite' launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region." Nuland said such a launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.
North Korea is banned from conducting missile and nuclear tests, under the terms of U.N. sanctions imposed after a series of nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009.
Wednesday's launch follows up on an attempt in April that ended in failure just minutes after liftoff.
This report includes information from Reuters.