SEOUL—North Korea launched a multistage rocket Wednesday morning, its second this year and fifth ever, in an apparent acceleration of a years-long effort to develop long-range missile capability.
It flew farther than a North Korean rocket that failed 80 seconds after takeoff in April, according to officials monitoring the launch in other countries.
The rocket lifted off from a launch facility in the country’s northwest corner that was being used for the second time, flew south on a path taking it over the Yellow Sea and then the East China Sea and the Philippines.
The launch, which wasn’t announced by North Korean authorities, was monitored by the South Korean military and confirmed by officials in Seoul and Tokyo.
In Japan, authorities said the rocket flew over Okinawa prefecture, a series of Japanese islands in the East China Sea.
The first of three stages was due to last about two minutes before burning out and falling into water west of South Korea, according to plans North Korea submitted to international aviation and marine authorities. Parts of the nose cone, or fairing, were projected to drop off west of South Korea’s Jeju Island.
The second stage was expected to go east of Taiwan before burning out east of the Philippines.
North Korea said the rocket was carrying a satellite into space, but other countries saw the launch as a cover for a test of long-range missile technology. North Korea has attempted four such launches previously, but each failed to reach space.
In announcing this launch, North Korea said its scientists learned from mistakes made during the April one. However, analysts believed North Korea’s authoritarian regime was attempting to complete the launch by the end of 2012, the centennial of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong Eun.
The launch happened on the third day of a launch window that initially was set to run from Dec. 10 to 22. On Monday, North Korea extended the launch window to Dec. 29, citing technical difficulties.
That led to speculation in South Korea and elsewhere that the launch wouldn’t occur until next week at the earliest.
Follow Radio Freedom on Facebook