published Thursday, April 12th, 2012

South Korea's Defense Ministry says North Korea has fired a long-range rocket

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a long-range rocket early Friday, South Korean defense officials said, defying international warnings against a launch widely seen as a provocation.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the launch may have failed.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters in a nationally televised news conference in Seoul that North Korea launched the rocket around 7:39 a.m.

He said officials were trying to determine whether it was a success. He provided no further details, and declined to say how South Korea confirmed the launch in the west coast hamlet of Tongchang-ri.

There was no word in Pyongyang about the launch, its third attempt to send a satellite into space since 1998.

North Korea had announced it would send a three-stage rocket mounted with a satellite as part of celebrations honoring national founder Kim Il Sung, whose 100th birthday they are celebrating Sunday.

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