North Korea seems to have succeeded in putting what its claims to be a satellite into orbit, a military official said Sunday.
"It's presumed that the projectile has entered into orbit," the official said, indicating that the North's long-range rocket launch might be successful.
He added, however, additional analysis is needed to confirm whether it is normally operating in orbit.
Earlier in the day, the North fired the rocket from its northwest Dongchang-ri launch site in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions, South Korean military officials said.
South Korea's Aegis destroyer radar detected the rocket lifting off at 9:30 a.m. and concluded it was a long-range missile after studying the trajectory, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
After the launch on the west coast, the rocket flew southward, dropping its first stage into the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula at 9:32 a.m. The first stage exploded in midair and splashed down in some 270 pieces, according to the JCS.
Four minutes later, the missile disappeared from the military's surveillance radar at about the same moment the missile shed its fairing southwest of South Korea's Jeju Island, the JCS said.
The confirmed route so far matches what the North has previously told United Nations agencies.
"South Korea and the U.S. are jointly studying whether the disappearance means the launch was a failure or there were other technical issues," a JCS official said.
The allies are also examining the location where the second stage of the missile may have fallen, the official said.
Officials said the missile passed through the skies of South Korea without creating any damage.
The communist country has said the launch will put an earth observation satellite into orbit, but the outside world views it as cover for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. The North is banned from launching a rocket using ballistic missile technology under a series of relevant U.N. resolutions.
Initially, the North proclaimed the rocket would be fired sometime between Feb. 8 and 25, but it advanced the launch window to Feb. 7-14 on Saturday.
It is the sixth long-range missile test by the North in its program to develop nuclear-loaded intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The missile fired on Sunday is believed to have a range of more than 10,000 kilometers, which could reach the mainland U.S.
The North's rocket launch came weeks after it conducted a fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, prompting the U.N. Security Council to work on a fresh resolution for tougher sanctions against the North.
President Park Geun-hye convened an emergency security meeting to discuss how to respond to North Korea's missile provocation.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo also plans to hold an emergency meeting with United Stages Forces Korea Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti later in the day to discuss a joint response. (Yonhap)