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US condemns North Korea's 'provocative' rocket launch

 

North Korea's much-anticipated rocket launch ended quickly in failure early Friday, splintering into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff.

North Korea acknowledged in an announcement broadcast on state TV that a satellite launched hours earlier from the west coast failed to enter into orbit. The U.S. and South Korea also declared the launch a failure.

A senior U.S. official told Fox News the rocket broke apart between 90 seconds and 2 minutes after launching.

Data suggests the rocket broke up in mid-flight inside the Earth's atmosphere. Officials say the rocket did not fall into any populated areas, suggesting it fell into the ocean.

The rocket likely broke apart between the first and second stages of a three phase process.

“This is just a reminder,” Seoul-based North Korea expert Alexi Lankov told Fox News, “ that Pyongyang hasn’t developed a credible vehicle for a nuclear weapon delivery system.”

The White House released a statement condemning the launch, saying: "Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments."

President Obama has been prepared to engage with North Korea in a constructive manner, the statement said, but he also insists that the country live up to its earlier commitments and international obligations.

In response to the launch, Washington announced it was suspending plans to contribute food aid to the North in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programs.

Japan's Defense Minister Naiki Tanaka said, "We have confirmed that a certain flying object has been launched and fell after flying for just over a minute." He did not say what exactly was launched.

He said there was no impact on Japanese territory from the launch.

North Korea had earlier announced it would send a three-stage rocket mounted with a satellite as part of celebrations honoring national founder Kim Il Sung, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated Sunday.

Space officials say the rocket is meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns -- its third bid to launch a satellite since 1998.

The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Friday to discuss a possible response the launch, council diplomats said.

The United States, Japan, Britain, Russia and others say the launch would be a provocation and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs. Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking for the Group of Eight nations after their foreign ministers met in Washington, said all the members of the bloc agreed to be prepared to take further action against North Korea in the Security Council if the launch goes ahead.

"Pyongyang has 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 said.

At the United Nations in New York, G-8 member Russia echoed that the launch would violate Security Council resolutions. But North Korea's other main ally, China -- which is not part of the G-8 -- was more circumspect.

"We are very concerned about that issue," China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said, adding that Beijing wanted to "diffuse tension, not inflame" it.

Japan's parliament adopted a resolution Thursday condemning the scheduled rocket launch.

"A launch is a serious act of provocation that would affect peace and stability in the region that includes our country," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, reading the resolution adopted unanimously at the lower house. "We strongly urge North Korea to use self-restraint and not to carry out a launch."

Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Greg Palkot, Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.