North Korea admits rocket failure

North Korea's much-anticipated rocket launch ended quickly in failure, 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 US and South Korea also declared the launch a failure.

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was fired from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri along the west coast at 7:38 am (local time), but failed to reach orbit, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

"Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," KCNA said.

US and South Korean officials said hours earlier that the rocket splintered into pieces about a minute after liftoff over the Yellow Sea, calling it a provocative failed test of missile technology.

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.

The US, Japan, Britain and other nations had been urging North Korea to cancel a launch seen as a covert test of the rocket technology also used to send a long-range missile to strike the US.

North Korea refused to back down, saying the rocket would only carry a civilian satellite, touting it as a major technological achievement to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, on Sunday.

Still, the rocket failure is a major embarrassment for Pyongyang, which has invited dozens of international journalists to observe the rocket launch and other celebrations.

It has staked its pride on the satellite, seeing it as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship while Kim Il Sung's young grandson, Kim Jong Un, solidifies power following the death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.

- AP

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