** North Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket, Claims Satellite in Orbit **
North Korea says it has succeeded in launching a long-range rocket and placing a satellite into orbit, defying international warnings.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported the news early Wednesday and it was later announced triumphantly by an anchor on North Korean state television.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command ((NORAD)) says initial indications suggest the missile launch was successful in deploying an object that "appeared to achieve orbit."
South Korean and Japanese defense officials confirmed that all three stages of the rocket appear to have separated as scheduled. But they could not immediately say whether the device had been placed into orbit.
The White House issued a statement calling the launch a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security" and violates U.N. Security Council resolutions barring ballistic missile activity by Pyongyang.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also deplored the launch as a "clear violation" of U.N. sanctions, saying he is concerned about its consequences on peace and stability in the region.
**Obama: US Now Recognizes New Syrian Opposition Coalition **
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States now recognizes a newly-formed Syrian coalition of opposition groups -- a move aimed at piling pressure against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Obama, speaking Tuesday on U.S. television, said the new coalition is now representative enough of the Syrian population that it can be seen as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people "in opposition to the Assad regime."
The widely-expected move is aimed at strengthening the hand of rebels seeking to topple the Assad government. But it stops short of any U.S. commitment to arm the opposition, which the administration says includes terrorist participation.
In the ABC television interview, the president noted a "small element" within the opposition coalition that is, in his words, " affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq, and we have designated them, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization."
Hours earlier, the U.S. State Department formally declared Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist organization -- a move that freezes its assets. It also announced sanctions against two armed militia groups that back the Syrian president.
Analysts say al-Nusra has been among the most effective of the rebel groups fighting the Assad government. That effectiveness has raised U.S. concerns that hardline extremists are commandeering the 21-month-old revolt.