North Korea successfully launched a weather satellite into orbit on Tuesday night, which caused a bout of near-hysteria among the regime's international enemies.
North Korea declared the launch of a rocket and satellite a success early today.
Three hours later, the US military confirmed that an object appeared to have achieved orbit.
The White House immediately damned the successful launch, calling it a "highly provocative act" that threatened regional security.
But the US North American Aerospace Defence Command insisted that neither the missile nor debris from the launch posed a threat to the US.
It directly violated UN security council resolutions and contravened North Korea's international obligations, the White House claimed in a terse statement.
"This action is yet another example of North Korea's pattern of irresponsible behaviour.
"The US remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and fully committed to the security of our allies in the region," the statement said.
The US, Japan and South Korea vowed last week to seek further UN security council action if the North conducted a launch.
The rocket has been labelled by the three powers as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far as the US.
North Korea followed a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the security council to stiffen sanctions and ban it from developing nuclear and missile-related technology.
However, diplomats say further tough sanctions are unlikely to be agreed as China will probably oppose them.
China had expressed "deep concern" prior to the launch which was announced a day after a top Politburo member met Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.
today, its tone was measured, regretting the launch but calling for restraint on possible counter-measures.
"China believes the security council's response should be cautious and moderate, protect the overall peaceful and stable situation on the Korean peninsula, and avoid an escalation of the situation," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
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