North Korea, defying the international community, launched a long-range rocket on Friday, but it crashed and fell into the sea before it escaped Earth's atmosphere.
CNN reports that Noriyuki Shikata, spokesman for the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, said: "It flew about a minute, and it flew into the ocean." According to South Korea's Yonhap Television News, debris appeared to have landed 190 to 210 kilometers off Gunsan's west coast, near the Yellow Sea.
The Japanese spokesman said Japan has not identified any "negative impact of the launch so far." He said, however, that the "international ramifications" could be significant: "This is something that we think is a regrettable development."
Reuters reports the Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka, also told reporters: “We have the information some sort of flying object had been launched from North Korea. 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.”
According to Reuters, the Defense Ministry in Seoul, told reporters the rocket broke up and crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch. The rocket was set to fly over the sea separating the Korean peninsula, and the third stage of the rocket that would put it into orbit was set to launch in seas near the Philippines.
According to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a news release, "Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 km west of Seoul, South Korea. The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat."
CNN reports Joseph Cirincione, president of The Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, said the launch's failure shows "the weakness of the North Korea missile program" and suggests that the threat from North Korea has been "exaggerated." He added: "It's a humiliation. I wouldn't want to be a North Korean rocket scientist today."
Victor Cha, former director of Asian affairs for the U.S. National Security Council and Georgetown University professor, said: "This was supposed to be associated with (Kim Jong Un's) ascension to power. So for this thing to fail...is incredibly embarrassing."
North Korean authorities had invited foreign journalists to witness the "historic" occasion. AFP reports that last Sunday, the authorities took the journalists on a visit to the Tongchang-ri space center in the country's northwest, and on Wednesday, they visited the mission control center in a suburb north of the capital.
This is not the first time a rocket launch by the North Koreans has failed. CNN reports that in April 2009, the North Koreans launched a rocket that traveled 2,300 miles before its third stage fell into the Pacific Ocean.
Friday's launch was timed to coincide with North Korea's 100th anniversary of the birth of kim Il Sung, founder of North Korea who ruled the communist state for more than four decades.
The North Korean state media has admitted failure of the launch. This, according to CNN, is a departure from past practice in which North Korea insisted on success of failed launches. AFP quotes the official Korean Central News Agency's "terse" report: "The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure."
The United States and its allies had opposed the launch, but Reuters reports North Korea insisted it was only using its Unha-3 rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit. But opponents say the launch was to enhance North Korea's capacity to design a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the U.S.
After news of failure of the rocket launch, a U.S. Official remarked sarcastically that the incident demonstrated Pyongyang's "unblemished track record of failure."
According to The Guardian, soon after the Unha-3 rocket "exploded into about 20 pieces and fell into the Yellow Sea," the White House accused North Korea of violating UN security council resolutions banning development of long-range missile technology. White House spokesman Jay Carney, said in an official statement: "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. While this action is not surprising given North Korea's pattern of aggressive behavior, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community."
Washington also said it was suspending plans to deliver food aid to North Korea, but did not say if it was permanently abandoning the deal in which in exchange for North Korea stopping enrichment of uranium and developing ballistic missiles, it would receive 240,000 tonnes of US food aid.