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Pentagon confirms North Korean missile launch, launch system appears to have entered space

An unarmed U.S. Air Force LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 17, 2013. Col. Keith Balts, the commander of the 30th Space Wing, acted as the launch decision authority. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales/Released)

In defiance of recent international condemnation for a supposed hydrogen bomb test, North Korea launched a long-range missile Sunday morning, according to senior Pentagon officials.

“Based upon its trajectory as we are tracking it, it does not pose a threat to the U.S. or allies,” a senior defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

North Korea launches ‘satellite,’ sparks fears about long-range missile program

The launch occurred at 7:29 p.m. Eastern Saturday and 9:29 a.m. local Sunday, according to the Pentagon. The missile’s launch system appears to have entered space, according to senior defense officials, much like the United States’s inter-continental ballistic missiles.

The missile is a possible test of a system that could deliver a nuclear warhead capable of striking the U.S. homeland, something North Korea has sought to develop and produce for decades. It is unclear where the missile impacted, however according to the U.S. Strategic Command, the missile was tracked “on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea.”

According to a release from Strategic Command, U.S. forces in the region “remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.”

Various reports on social media indicated the missile violated Japanese airspace during its flight.

Earlier last month North Korea claimed a successful underground hydrogen bomb test. Though the explosion created a small earthquake in the region, international monitors claimed the blast was too small to be an actual hydrogen bomb.

In a statement U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry strongly condemned the launch.

“We will continue to work with our partners and members of the UN Security Council on significant measures to hold the DPRK to account,” Kerry said.

The test, the fourth of its kind since 2006, drew widespread international condemnation and prompted threats of new sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. Following North Korea’s most recent launch, according to Reuters, the Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting Sunday.