The Democratic People's Republic of Korea confirmed on Sunday that it had sent a communications satellite into orbit. South Korea and the United States say they detected the launch through their monitoring systems but they haven't observed anything orbiting in space.
Unlike its two previous secret tests, the DPRK went high-profile this time. Three days ago it announced the time range it would send a satellite into space. Now, it's telling the world it has successfully completed the task.
South Korea and the United States' intelligence sources say the launch took place at 11:30 am local time in the north-east of the DPRK.
Heading towards the Pacific Ocean, the rocket travelled once across Japanese airspace for almost seven minutes. Japan deployed patriot missile batteries and counted down to lift-off so they could shoot down any debris from a failed launch. But Japan found no debris on its territory.
Hours later, the DPRK declared it a success. But the US says it hasn't observed any object entering orbit. Instead, they found the first stage of the rocket had fallen into the waters between South Korea and Japan.
The conflicting claims left one question unsolved: was the rocket actually carrying a communications satellite or a missile in disguise?
South Korean officials said it's too early to tell, as they are still clarifying the details. For the time being, they say it appears the DPRK has launched a satellite.
(CCTV April 5, 2009)