North Korea has launched a long-range rocket, which it claims is for peaceful research purposes, in defiance of international warnings. The US, Japan and South Korea indicated that the launch may have failed.
North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Friday, after the world's eight largest industrial powers had demanded that the reclusive communist state refrain from the launch or face action at the UN Security Council.
US, Japanese and South Korean officials indicated that the rocket may have failed just minutes after launch.
"It seems that the rocket has failed," South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told journalists."But we need more analysis for confirmation."
Pyongyang launched the rocket, which it claimed was carrying a weather satellite, to commemorate the centennial of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung. The United States, however, said that the launch was a cover for a ballistic missile test banned by United Nations resolutions.
Group of Eight warning
During the Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers meeting in Washington D.C. on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there was no doubt North Korea was using ballistic missile technology and that it faced a "clear choice."
"It can pursue peace and reap the benefits of closer ties with the international community, including the United States, or it can continue to face pressure and isolation," Clinton told reporters. "If Pyongyang goes forward, we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action."
The rocket launch came after North Korea had reached an agreement with the US in February to stop nuclear and missile tests as well as uranium enrichment in exchange for food aid.
The rocket launch has led to renewed tensions in northeast Asia, with Japan placing its missile defenses an alert to shoot the rocket down if enters the island nation's airspace. South Korean intelligence sources had also reported earlier in the week that the North could be preparing for a third nuclear test.
"At this moment, utmost efforts must be done to urge North Korea not to launch a missile," Japanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Naoko Saiki said.
"Without going into intelligence or concrete evidence, I could say that we have to be prepared for the worst scenario in which North Korea might take further provocative actions including a nuclear test," she added.
slk/av (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)