North Korea's Satellite launch ended badly for thecommunist nation as the rocker disintegrated intothe Yellow Sea, appeasing fears that the nationwas using the satellite to test missiletechnology.
The launch is one of new leader Kim Jong Un'sfirst initiatives, expected to show the strengthof North Korea as the country continues to sufferfrom a heavy economic depression. Jong Un is stilltrying to consolidate power after the death of hisfather, Kim Jong Il, four months ago.
The U.N. Security Council said it deplores thelaunch, saying it violated two councilresolutions.
In a rare move, Pyongyang acknowledged that therocket did not deliver a satellite, but it alsopressed ahead with grandiose propaganda in praiseof the ruling Kim family.
The United States and South Korea declared theearly morning launch a failure minutes after therocket shot out from the North's west coast. NorthKorea acknowledged that some four hours later inan announcement broadcast on state TV, saying thesatellite that the rocket was carrying did notenter orbit.
North Korea had held up the launch as a scientificachievement and even a gift for its late founder,Kim Il Sung, two days before the 100th anniversaryof his birth. It pressed ahead even as worldleaders vowed to take action in the U.N. SecurityCouncil against what they called a flagrantviolation of international resolutions prohibitingNorth Korea from developing its nuclear andmissile programs.
The rocket's destruction suggests the country hasyet to master the technology needed to build long-range missiles that could threaten the UnitedStates. Still, worries remain about North Korea'snuclear program amid reports that it may beplanning an atomic test soon.
Kim Jong Un has been given several importanttitles intended to strengthen his rule this week.Hours after the failed launch, state media said hewas named first chairman of the powerful NationalDefense Commission during a meeting of the SupremePeople's Assembly.
Kim Jong Il, who ruled the country in his capacityas chairman of the commission, was given the titleof "chairman for eternity."
Outsiders, meanwhile, focused on the launch, whichwas condemned by the foreign ministers of theGroup of Eight industrialized nations meeting inWashington, including Russia.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the launch"is in direct violation" of Security Councilsanctions "and threatens regional stability,"spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The U.N.'s most powerful body, the SecurityCouncil, said in a brief press statement after aclosed meeting on Friday that members agreed tocontinue consultations "on an appropriateresponse."
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the current councilpresident, refused to speculate on whether aresponse might include new sanctions against NorthKorea. The council imposed sanctions against NorthKorea after its first nuclear test in 2006 andstepped up sanctions after its second test in2009.
"We think a credible reaction is important," Ricesaid.
Washington said it was suspending plans tocontribute food aid to the North in exchange for arollback of its nuclear programs.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also said onThursday before the launch that "the clearviolation of U.N. Security Council resolutionsthat a launch of a ballistic missile wouldrepresent makes it virtually impossible for us togo ahead with" the agreed-upon package of food aidto North Korea.
The Obama administration believes U.S. sanctionsagainst North Korea, particularly on its abilityto obtain advanced electronics for guidancesystems, have restricted its proliferationactivities.
North Korea had announced weeks earlier that itwould launch a long-range rocket mounted with anobservational satellite, touting it as a majortechnological achievement to mark the centennialof the birth of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un'sgrandfather.
The failure "blows a big hole in the birthdayparty," said Victor Cha, former director for Asiapolicy in the U.S. National Security Council."It's terribly embarrassing for the North."
In downtown Pyongyang, university student KimKwang Jin was sanguine about the news."I'm not toodisappointed. There was always the chance offailure," he said. "Other nations -- includingChina and Russia -- have had failures whilebuilding their space programs so why wouldn't we?I hope that in the future, we're able to build abetter satellite."
In the U.S., Pentagon press secretary GeorgeLittle said American officials believe the missilefailed during the second stage of flight, but hewas unable to say whether there was a controlledseparation from the first stage.
"It was an obvious and very quick failure," hesaid.
Asked whether the failure suggests that NorthKorea poses less of a military threat to the U.S.
"We are not discounting the possibility ofadvancements in North Korean missile technology,notwithstanding their failures," he said.
Experts say the Unha-3 carrier was the same typeof rocket that would be used to strike the U.S.and other targets with a long-range missile.
Greg Thielmann, a former intelligence officer withthe U.S. State Department, said it now appears theNorth Koreans haven't mastered the technology theyneed to control multistage rockets -- a keycapability if the North is to threaten the UnitedStates with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
North Korea has tested two atomic devices but isnot yet believed to be able to build a nuclearwarhead small enough to be mounted on a long-rangemissile.
Cha, who was an Asia adviser for former PresidentGeorge W. Bush, said the next step would be towatch whether North Korea conducts a third nucleartest, as has been speculated by the South Koreanintelligence community.
State media said the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellitewas fired from the Sohae Satellite LaunchingStation in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri but "failedto enter its preset orbit."
"Scientists, technicians and experts are nowlooking into the cause of the failure," the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
North Korean space officials said the Unha-3, orGalaxy-3, rocket was meant to send a satelliteinto orbit to study crops and weather patterns --its third bid to launch a satellite since 1998.Officials had earlier brought foreign journaliststo the west coast site to see the rocket and theKwangmyongsong-3 satellite Sunday in a bid to showits transparency amid accusations of defiance.
The acknowledgment of the rocket's failure -- bothto the outside world and to North Koreans -- was asurprising admission by a government that in thepast has kept tight control over information. InPyongyang, dozens of foreign journalists invitedto cover the launch were not allowed to view theliftoff live.
"The failure, which was impossible to hide fromthe North Korean people given the advancepublicity and presence of international media,will be a major source of domestic andinternational embarrassment for the Kim Jong Unregime," said Ralph Cossa, president of PacificForum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank.
Attempts to put satellites into orbit often poseproblems even for developed nations. In 2010, aSouth Korean rocket carrying a climate observationsatellite exploded 137 seconds into its flight. Anearlier 2009 attempt, Seoul's first from its ownterritory, also failed.
The Unha-3's launch was monitored by a host ofU.S., Japanese and South Korean military assets,which were expected to capture vital data on NorthKorea's ballistic missile capabilities.
U.S. Navy minesweepers and other ships in the areawere expected to begin scouring the sea for debrisfrom the rocket, which can offer evidence of whatwent wrong and what rocket technology North Koreahas.
At a massive gathering later Friday in Pyongyang,Kim Jong Un and other senior officials watched theunveiling of an enormous new statue of Kim JongIl, which stood beside an equally large statue ofKim Il Sung.