Tokyo: Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit on Monday amid concerns over North Korea's missile programme and to monitor natural disasters in the region.

The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying information- gathering radar satellite lifted off at 10:21 am (0121 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, officials said.

The government decided to build an intelligence-gathering system following North Korea's missile launch in 1998 into the Pacific over the Japanese archipelago.

In defiance of international pressure, North Korea launched what was believed to be a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile in April 2009, with an estimated range of 6,700 kilometres.

For security reasons, the government has refused to divulge details about the functions of satellites.

Demand for domestic land surveillance grew after Japan was hit by the March 11 quake and tsunami.