North Korea has launched a satellite carrier that appears to have disintegrated in the air soon after blastoff and fallen into the ocean, South Korean and Japanese authorities say.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said the 30-meter-long (100-foot-long) Unha-3 (Galaxy-3) rocket was launched at 07:39 a.m. local time on Friday (2239 GMT on Thursday) from the Tongchang-ri launch site on the Yellow Sea coast in the country's northwest, Xinhua reported.
However, the projectile broke into multiple pieces soon after the launch and fell into the ocean.
“It seems that the rocket has failed. A few minutes after the launch, the rocket disintegrated into several pieces and lost its altitude,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told journalists.
Meanwhile, Japan's Defense Ministry said that North Korea had launched a rocket, but it disintegrated soon after the launch. The ministry added that the debris fell into the Yellow Sea, without affecting the Japanese territory.
“The flying object is believed to have flown for more than one minute and fallen into the ocean. This does not affect our country's territory at all,” Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters.
Pyongyang had said the rocket launch was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit for peaceful research purposes to mark the centenary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
However, Western critics see the launch as a thinly-veiled ballistic missile test, banned by the United Nations resolutions.
The US and the South see it as a disguised long-range ballistic missile test that runs counter to a UN Security Council resolution as well as a recent food aid deal between Pyongyang and Washington, under which the former halts nuclear and missile tests.
“North Korea's long-range missile launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 1874 banning all launches using ballistic-missile technology, and is a provocative act that threatens peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the Northeast Asia," South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said in a statement.
“North Korea will have to take responsibility [for the launch],” he said, adding that the South Korean government would stage a “comprehensive response” to potential nuclear and missile threats posed by its northern neighbor.
The Security Council is due to meet in an emergency session over North Korea's disputed satellite launch. The closed-door meeting by the 15-nation body is expected to take place at 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) on Friday, diplomats at the United Nations said.