The UN by Giant Savings” href=”#”>Security Council is meeting in emergency session to discuss the launch by North Korea of a long-range rocket.

A statement is expected to be issued within hours and western diplomats have said they would like this to be followed by a resolution in the coming days. However, the strength of any such resolution depends on China, which has expressed “regret” at North Korea’s action, but also urged restraint on any counter measures.

The Unha-3 rocket, launched at 09:49 local time (00:49 GMT), appears to have followed its planned trajectory, with stages falling in expected areas.

The news of the rocket launch was announced on state TV, with people in Pyongyang saying it gave them “great pride”

North Korea says a satellite has been placed in orbit; the US confirmed an object had been put into space.

US National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said: “This action is yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behaviour. Given this current threat to regional security, the United States will strengthen and increase our close coordination with allies and partners.

“The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of UN Security Council resolutions have consequences.”

The launch comes a week ahead of the South Korean presidential election and roughly a year after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, on 17 December 2011.

The three-stage rocket blasted off from a site on North Korea’s west coast.

“The launch of the second version of our Kwangmyongsong-3 [Unha-3] satellite from the Sohae Space Centre… on December 12 was successful,” state news agency KCNA said. “The satellite has entered the orbit as planned.”

The rocket had been scheduled to pass between the Korean peninsula and China, with a second stage coming down off the Philippines.

China’s Xinhua news agency published a commentary a few hours after the launch and defended North Korea’s “right to conduct peaceful exploration” of outer space.