North Korea defiantly fired off a long-range rocket Friday, but the three-stage rocket apparently crashed in pieces into the sea shortly after takeoff, officials said.
The launch is still expected to draw international condemnation as it violated a U.N. resolution.
The Unha-3 rocket took off from the Tongchang-ri launch site at 7:39 a.m., but appears to have separated into several pieces before crashing into the sea a few minutes after takeoff, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
"South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities believe North Korea's missile launch ended in failure," Kim said without providing further specifics, including how far the three-stage rocket traveled. "We will make an announcement later after making final confirmation."
Military sources said the rocket appears to have landed in waters about 190 to 200 kilometers off South Korea's western port city of Gunsan, without the separation of its first and second stages.
Naval ships tracked the rocket's flight path, they said.
U.S. news cable channel CNN also reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials, that the launch appeared to have ended in failure.
North Korea fired a long-range rocket early Friday, April 13, 2012, South Korean defense officials said, defying international warnings against a launch widely seen as a provocation. (Yonhap Photo)
apanese media reported the rocket fell into the sea right after takeoff.
The North had said it would launch the rocket between April 12 and 16 to put what it claimed to be a satellite into orbit to mark the 100th birthday celebrations for Kim Il-sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
|North Korea fired a long-range rocket early Friday, April 13, 2012, South Korean defense officials said, defying international warnings against a launch widely seen as a provocation. (Yonhap Photo)|
South Korea, the United States and other regional powers urged Pyongyang to call off the launch, seeing it as a pretext to disguise a long-range missile test, banned under a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Foreign news reports said the U.N. Security Council plans to convene an emergency meeting.
South Korea urged that the U.N. Security Council punish the North.
"Regardless of its success or failure, we urge the U.N. Security Council to take action against North Korea's rocket launch," a senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said, on condition of anonymity.
President Lee Myung-bak also held an emergency meeting of security related ministers.
A defense committee of South Korea's National Assembly will also hold an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. Friday to discuss the launch, a committee official said.
"After North Korea launched its long-range rocket, the defense committee was urgently convened," the official told Yonhap News Agency by phone.
In Washington, the White House was preparing to issue a formal response to the launch.
Officials at both the State Department and the Defense Department said they have nothing to say for now regarding reports of the North's rocket launch.
The White House is in charge of releasing the initial response of the U.S. administration, the source told Yonhap News Agency.
Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, did not provide an immediate reply to Yonhap's inquiry. (Yonhap News)