Defying international pressure, North Korea launched a long-range missile Friday morning. However, U.S. officials say they believe the attempted launch failed before the missile was able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.
U.S. officials confirm that a North Korean long-range missile appears to have broken apart midair after launch. Officials say they believe the missile fell apart within the Earth's atmosphere before crashing into the sea.
Japan's Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has backed U.S. reports that the launch failed. "We have confirmed that a certain flying object has been launched and fell after flying for just over a minute," Tanaka said.
South Korea's Defense Ministry first reported the launch, which is seen as defying international warnings and widely viewed as a provocation from the rogue state.
The U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to discuss a response to the North's attempted launch.
South Korea Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters in a nationally televised news conference that the rocket was fired at 7:39 a.m, local time Friday. "We suspect the North Korean missile has fallen as it divided into pieces minutes after liftoff."
South Korean and U.S. intelligence reports say the launch was made from the west coast launch pad in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri.
The launch comes after weeks of speculation regarding the possible launch, which North Korea's government says was being done to send a weather satellite into orbit. If true, it would represent the third failed attempt by North Korea to send a satellite into space since 1998.
North Korea says it was timing the launch to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's former leader, Kim Il Sung, which they are celebrating Sunday.
However, most observers say the launch is actually tied to the country's missile program. Japan has already given its military clearance to shoot down the rocket if it crosses into Japanese airspace.
A White House statement is expected to be issued shortly.
There was no word from North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, about the launch.
North Korean television was reportedly broadcasting popular folk music at the time of the launch and has only said it will offer an announcement on the launch "soon."