North Korea appeared to successfully fire a long-range rocket Wednesday, defying international warnings as the regime of Kim Jong Un pushes forward with its quest to develop the technology needed to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Pyongyang’s state media quickly claimed that the country had succeed in its mission of putting a peaceful satellite into orbit with its long-range Unha-3 rocket. Officials at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said North Korea appeared to have put an object into space.

But South Korea and Japan said they couldn’t immediately confirm that. The launch was something of a surprise, as North Korea had indicated technical problems with the rocket and recently extended its launch window to Dec. 29.

The United Nations, Washington, Seoul and others see the launch as a cover for a test of technology for missiles that could be used to strike the United States. The White House called the launch a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”

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