North Korea's much-hyped rocket launch has failed, the country admitted on Friday. The Unha-3 rocket - which the North said would put a satellite into orbit - was launched from Cholsan, a coastal town in the country's northwest, in the early hours of Friday morning.
The launch was timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation's late founding leader Kim Il-sung.
North Korea ignored calls from western nations not to go ahead with the launch, which the United States claimed was cover for a ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions.
The United States, South Korea and Japan and other countries observing the launch said the rocket crashed into the Yellow Sea shortly after blastoff at around 07:39 local time (22:39 GMT Thursday).
"Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165km (105 miles) west of Seoul, South Korea," the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) said in a statement.
"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."
South Korea said the rocket broke up into some 20 pieces and plunged into the sea. The South Korean Defense Ministry said its military was searching the area to try to recover rocket fragments, Yonhap news agency reported.
Japan had vowed to shoot down the rocket if it appeared to threaten its territory. Tokyo redeployed Patriot anti-missile systems to its southern islands along the rocket's potential flight path.
The failure may serve as a major source of embarrassment for the North's new leader, Kim Jong-un, who came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December last year.
Pyongyang carried out a similar launch in 2009.
The White House condemned Friday's launch, despite the failure.
"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," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
"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."
Pyongayng agreed in February to suspend its nuclear activities as well as long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid.
But Washington said last month it was putting the deal on hold after the North announced its launch plans.