The North Korean rocket launch of a satellite into space has failed after it veered off course and exploded seconds after liftoff over the Yellow Sea.
Bucking international pressure to not launch a rocket, the reclusive and somewhat backwards country went ahead, hoping to boost national pride across the communist country.
South Korea and the United States quickly called the launch a failure, and in an unusual move, the country also admitted to the "failure of the satellite to enter orbit" on state television, but did not give a reason.
The failure "blows a big hole in the birthday party," said Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the U.S. National Security Council. "It's terribly embarrassing for the North." The launch was to celebrate North Korean founder Kim Il Sung 100th birthday, though he is already dead.
North Korea had been under intense international pressure to scrub the launch, as most western nations fear it was really an attempt to develop and test the country's long range missile capability. Sitting on top of the rocket was a 220 pound satellite, relatively light compared to a nuclear weapon.
The launch is also a setback for the government of new leader Kim Jong Un, which had projected the satellite as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship while he solidifies power following the death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.
In response to the test launch, the US said it is suspending food aid to the country of mostly starving peasants and a few ruling elite. The Group of Eight largest industrialized nations is meeting in Washington D.C. and also condemned the launch as did Russia on its own.
The UN Security Council "deplores" the rocket launch which is in violation of two existing resolutions.
NUCLEAR TEST COMING SOON
North Korea is also apparently close to testing another nuclear weapon underground, recently admitting that a tunnel to be used for the test is nearly done. The country was confronted with satellite photo's showing large excavation in its northeast region.
Both South Korea and Japan had increased civil service protection programs on standby during the launch, fearing the rocket would fail to function correctly and land in their country.