North Korea's long-range rocket has failed, disintegrating shortly after launch. The UN Security Council has ordered an emergency meeting to consider taking action against Pyongyang for violating its resolutions.
After weeks of growing regional tension and international media attention, North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Friday, which disintegrated soon after it blasted off.
The rocket, which Pyongyang claimed was carrying a weather satellite, crashed in the Yellow Sea between the Korean peninsula and China after flying just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from its launch site, according to officials in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.
Japan, which had placed its missile defenses on alert, said the rocket had posed no threat to its airspace or territory.
"The flying object is believed to have flown for more than one minute and fallen into the ocean," Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said. "This did not affect our country's territory at all."
The North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), which tracked the rocket's trajectory, said that the first stage had fallen into the sea and the satellite-carrying portion of the rocket had failed.
Security Council meeting
The UN Security Council ordered an emergency meeting for Friday to address North Korea's rocket launch.
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.
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the launch would “increase tensions on the Korean peninsula," adding that the Security Council "must give a strong answer."
Russia, which traditionally takes a softer line on Pyongyang, acknowledged that the rocket launch was a violation of UN resolutions 1718 and 1874 which imposed sanctions after the communist nation conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Although North Korea's ally China had not said whether the launch breaches UN resolutions, Beijing's ambassador to the world body said China was "very concerned."
"We think the peace and stability in the region is really important," Ambassador Li Baodong said. "We have got to do everything possible to defuse tension rather than inflame the situation there."
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 agreement, however, appeared to have collapsed after Friday's launch.
"...In the current atmosphere, we would not be able to go forward with that," Secretary of State Clinton said in reference to the deal. "And other actions that other countries had been considering would also be on hold."
The failed launch raised concerns that North Korea might seek to compensate for the failure by carrying out a more provocative act. South Korean intelligence sources had reported earlier in the week that the North could be preparing for a third nuclear test.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Naoko Saiki said it was important to be ready for the worst case.
"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," Saiki said.
slk, rc/av (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)