N. Korea defies warning, launches long-range rocket

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea successfully fired a long-range rocket today, defying international warnings as the regime of Kim Jong Un took a big step forward in its quest to develop a nuclear missile.

The United States, South Korea and Japan were quick to condemn the launch, which they see as a test of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile that could one day threaten the U.S. Pyongyang says it was merely a peaceful effort to put a satellite into orbit.

Even China, North Korea’s closest ally, expressed “regret” that North Korea went ahead with the launch “in spite of the extensive concerns of international community,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei.

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