SEOUL - South Korea's navy has launched a salvage operation in the Yellow Sea to retrieve debris from North Korea's long-range rocket launch, military officials said Thursday.
The first stage of the North's Unha-3 rocket launched on Wednesday fell in the sea off the Korean peninsula, while the second splashed down east of the Philippines.
"Our navy discovered what appeared to be a part from the first stage of North Korea's rocket in the Yellow Sea Wednesday afternoon," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.
"A salvage operation is now under way to retrieve it," he said, declining to give details.
The chunk of the debris was found on the sea bed, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of the southwestern port of Gunsan, Yonhap news agency said, at a depth of around 80 meters (260 feet).
Before its last rocket launch attempt in April -- which ended in failure -- North Korea had warned both Japan and South Korea that any effort to salvage debris from the rocket would be considered an "act of war".
The warning was not repeated before Wednesday's launch.
Pyongyang said its latest launch was a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite in space.
Most of the world saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions imposed after the North's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The UN Security Council has condemned the launch and warned of possible measures over what the US called a "highly provocative" act.
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