TOKYO - Japan did not try to shoot down a North Korean rocket as it passed over its southern island chain of Okinawa, the government said Wednesday, strongly condemning the launch.
Tokyo confirmed the launch had taken place and that said it believed parts of the rocket had fallen into the sea off the Korean peninsula, with another part dropping into the ocean near the Philippines.
"Launch time was around 9:49 am (0049 GMT). The missile that North Korea calls a satellite passed over Okinawa around 10:01. We launched no interception," a government statement said.
Japan had been on high alert since the 13-day lift-off window opened, despite a suggestion from Pyongyang that it could delay the much-criticised blast-off.
Tokyo deployed missile defence systems to intercept and destroy the rocket if it looked set to fall on its territory, with missile batteries in and around Tokyo and in the Okinawan archipelago.
Japan reacted quickly to the launch on Wednesday, with national media informed by government-run alert system.
"It is extremely regrettable that North Korea went through with the launch despite our calls to exercise restraint," chief government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said.
"Our country cannot tolerate this. We strongly protest to North Korea."
The impoverished but nuclear-armed nation insists the long-range rocket launch -- its second this year after a much-hyped but botched mission in April -- is for peaceful scientific purposes.
But the United States, and allies South Korea and Japan, say Pyongyang's launch was a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by its two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
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