The Upshot

North Korea launches long-range missile; launch fails

Eric Pfeiffer
The Upshot

UPDATE: [9:20pm ET]: This story will be updated as events unfold.


  • U.S. officials say they believe the launch failed.
  • U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a response.
  • This is the third failed attempt at an orbital launch since 1998.



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.

"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 Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

"The President has been clear that he is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea.  However, he has also insisted that North Korea live up to its own commitments, adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors," Carney said.

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."

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A North Korean long-range missile launch has failed, U.S. officials confirm (AP Photo)

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."

Yahoo News White House correspondent Olivier Knox contributed to this report

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