UN Security Council condemns North Korean rocket launch

China, North Korea's most powerful ally, backed the statement, as did the other 14 council members

space, exploration, programme, international, warnings, north, korea

A South Korean Army soldier watches a TV news program showing an image of unidentified object flying in the sky. Image: Ahn Young-joon / AP/Press Association Images

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket in violation of international sanctions.

It also vowed to take "significant measures" over the rogue state's nuclear test in January that Pyongyang claims was a hydrogen bomb.

China, North Korea's most powerful ally, backed the statement, as did the other 14 council members during an emergency meeting.

In a state TV broadcast, a North Korean presenter said the "epochal" launch, personally ordered by leader Kim Jong Un, had "successfully put our Earth observation satellite ... into orbit".

The country said the launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, named after his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, was a "complete success" and it was making a polar orbit of Earth every 94 minutes

The rogue state insisted the rocket was part of its space exploration programme - but most of the world viewed it as a disguised ballistic missile test.

Seoul and Washington said they would look at whether to deploy an advanced missile defence system in South Korea, which China and Russia both oppose.

Pyongyang remained defiant hours after the launch, with its embassy in Moscow issuing a statement saying it would "continue to launch more man-made satellites".

Venezuelan ambassador Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno, president of the Security Council this month, said the launch was "a serious violation of... resolutions".

US ambassador Samantha Power told reporters: "We will ensure that the Security Council imposes serious consequences.

"DPRK's (North Korea) latest transgressions require our response to be even firmer."

Sunday's rocket took off at around 9am Pyongyang time from the North's west coast, according to South Korea's defence ministry.

Japan's NHK broadcaster reported debris from the rocket was believed to have fallen about 155 miles (250km) off the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula into the East China Sea about 14 minutes after the launch.

Kim Jong Un has overseen two of the North's four nuclear tests and three long-range rocket tests since taking over after the death of Kim Jong Il, in late 2011.

Last month, the North claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb - but this was widely disputed by experts.

Rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the North's ultimate goal of a nuclear armed long-range missile arsenal.