North Korea’s attempt to put the country’s first spy satellite into space failed on Wednesday.
It was a setback to leader Kim Jong Un’s push to boost his military capabilities as tensions with the United States and South Korea rise.
After its unusually quick admission of failure, North Korea vowed to conduct a second launch after learning what went wrong with its rocket lift-off.
It suggests Mr Kim remains determined to expand his weapons arsenal to apply more pressure on Washington and Seoul while diplomacy is stalled.
A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the country from conducting any launch based on ballistic technology.
Observers say North Korea’s previous satellite launches helped improve its long-range missile technology, though the latest launch likely was more focused on deploying a spy satellite.
North Korea has already shown it may have the ability to strike all of the US mainland after years of intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
The newly developed Chollima-1 rocket, which was carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite, was launched at 6.37am local time at the North’s Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in the northwest.
The rocket crashed off the Korean Peninsula’s western coast after it lost thrust following the separation of its first and second stages, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
It said the country’s space agency will investigate defects revealed in the launch, take urgent measures to overcome them and conduct the second launch as soon as possible through various part tests.
Wednesday’s launch prompted brief evacuation alerts in South Korea and Japan. Seoul’s military said it boosted military readiness in coordination with the United States, and Japan said it prepared to respond to any emergency.
South Korea’s military said the rocket had “an abnormal flight” before it fell in the waters. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that no object was believed to have reached space.
Adam Hodge, a spokesperson at the UN National Security Council, said in a statement that Washington strongly condemns the North Korean launch because it used banned ballistic missile technology, raised tensions and risked destabilising security in the region and beyond.